“Devastating” — that’s how one senior described the physical and emotional effects of a recent hospitalization. It was not an outlier case, nor unusual to hear. Many elders, particularly those with chronic co-morbidities, consistently return to the hospital many times a year, usually for the same or similar issues, and often with less-than-ideal outcomes. The repetition, lack of visible progress, and continued wear on the senior’s family and support system — as well as hospital resources — all add up to what can be a very depressing situation.
Perhaps you’re here because you know someone who is in exactly that situation: an aging loved one who is cycling in and out of acute care without any foreseeable stopping point. Perhaps you’ve spent a lot of time and effort helping them move in and out of the hospital, but they keep on ending up back in hospital care, and the repeated visits are making you frustrated. You want an answer, a solution.
Well, if this is you, don’t despair. You’re doing the right thing, and you may be doing more good than you realize. A 2012 “Study to Reduce Hospitalizations” conducted by Delta Technologies and the National Association for Home Health and Hospice found that the majority (58.7%) of hospitals with the greatest success in preventing elderly patients from being re-admitted were the ones who partnered with private home care agencies and other outpatient resources to support the patient post-discharge. And many times, it is a close family member or loved one who helps set up in-home care for these seniors, putting them on the road to recovery.
So if you want to keep your loved one out of the hospital and reduce their risk of being re-admitted, here are some of the reasons you should consider utilizing in-home elder care.
1. In-home elder caregivers can help seniors follow discharge instructions
When patients leave the hospital, the hospital gives them discharge instructions, which contain important medical information. Discharge instructions are meant to help patients manage their own care, but many patients, especially seniors, find it difficult to comply. Why? One reason is that hospital instructions can be full of complicated or technical language. Another reason is that seniors can get overwhelmed with the number of daily activities necessary to maintain a healthy condition. When seniors fail to follow the instructions — which is all too often — it usually means a health lapse, and re-admission to the hospital.
In-home caregivers can help seniors comply with their discharge instructions in several ways. A good caregiver will help seniors by:
- Explaining discharge instructions and educating seniors on what they mean
- Reminding seniors to complete the assigned treatments or activities
- Assisting seniors with record-keeping
- Ensuring seniors take their medications as prescribed
- Monitoring for changes and reporting any negative outcomes or other concerns to the physician
By the way, if you would like to get in-home care, but your loved one is refusing it, see our post from last week about what to do when seniors refuse.
2. Caregivers can oversee physical therapy and exercise
Many times discharge instructions will include some kind of physical therapy or exercise. It is important for seniors to do these activities, to improve and maintain their physical strength. In-home caregivers can remind and encourage seniors do their exercises, and even participate along with them. It is also important for exercising seniors to use the proper form, so that they don’t accidentally hurt themselves. A good caregiver will check and make sure the senior in their care is doing exercises the proper way, usually by referencing the instructions provided by the hospital therapy department or personally supervising the exercise.
3. Caregivers can help seniors maintain healthy diets
When someone is living alone, it’s often too easy to use packaged, prepared foods instead of cooking a meal from scratch. Unfortunately, prepared foods are typically low in nutritional value and full of undesirable ingredients, such as preservatives, saturated fats, and processed sugar. Caregivers can help their clients plan and even prepare fresh, health meals, making sure that they maintain healthy and nutritious diets. Many seniors will also have diet restrictions based on their conditions. It’s at times like these that a creative caregiver will really shine, helping to develop tasty meals that are still in compliance with prescribed restrictions.
4. Caregivers will ensure follow-up with a physician
Just because a patient has left the hospital doesn’t mean they’re in the clear. Follow-up appointments with primary care physicians after discharge are important to make sure that previous conditions don’t resurface.
Sometimes the hospital will make an appointment for the patient. Other times, discharge instructions will simply tell the patient to make a follow-up appointment 6-8 weeks post-discharge. It’s easy for the patient to forget to make an appointment, or think, “I’m feeling well enough, I don’t need to go.” In-home caregivers eliminate these possibilities. A good caregiver will help the senior make the appointment, and if necessary, help them get to it.
To streamline care even more, some home care agencies have their own physician house call programs. The same Delta study referenced above also found that 41.3% of successful agencies had arranged some kind of physician/home care protocol with one or more physicians.
Allegiance Home Care leverages our qualified, knowledgeable caregiving staff as well as our experienced house call physician team to ensure that seniors stay happy and healthy at home as much as possible. For more information about our Safe Transition home program, you can give us a call at 703-539-6029.
But regardless of what you choose, know that investing in in-home care is one of the best things you can do for a loved one who has recently returned a hospitalization, or who is preparing to be discharged. One hospital visit can easily turn into two, or three, or even more. Getting in-home care for an elderly person early on will be well worth the effort. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
About the Author: Pam Reynolds, CMC is the President and co-owner of Allegiance Aging Care Services. Pam has spent almost fifteen years working in senior care including long term care facilities and home health care. Her higher education is in Social Work, and she has been credentialed as both a certified Geriatric Care Manager and Licensed Assisted Living Administrator. Read more about Pam and her team of Aging Care Professionals here.