A stay in the hospital is certainly no vacation! It’s uncomfortable, noisy, and difficult to get any rest. For this reason a senior may want to leave the hospital even before they are ready. If you have a senior loved one who is coming home from the hospital, there are a number of things to consider to ensure that this discharge is successful. As their caregiver and/or advocate you might want to ask some of the following questions of the clinicians and discharge planner so that you can be fully prepared for the transition home.
- Learn as much about your loved one’s medical condition as possible such as- what new medicines they might be prescribed, and possible side effects? And what symptoms should you be aware of or look out for going forward?
- Ask if there are any dietary restrictions or suggested changes for your loved one’s diet going forward.
- If there is going to be a need for new adaptive equipment, what accommodations might they need at home to be able to maneuver safely- such as ramps for wheelchairs or raised toilet seats?
- If you are going to serve as a caregiver, ask what specific tasks you are going to be entrusted with and ensure you are prepared and comfortable with them.
- Make sure you have a clear plan for how you will get to your follow-up appointments if you cannot drive yourself. Ask about agencies in the community that might be able to help. In Northern Virginia, Allegiance Aging Care Services provides physician house calls to clients within days of their discharge home to ensure a smooth transition. See our related article, Reinventing Home Physician Care.
- Ask what therapies and other services may be required and arranged for your loved one post discharge, and get the contact information for the companies that are going to be providing those services.
If the answers to any of your questions have not been fully answered, be sure that they are before the day of discharge, and make sure that both you and your loved one are comfortable with all of the plans and discharge recommendations. It is important to keep your expectations realistic. Your loved one is not likely to return to their baseline ability as soon as they return home. They may have a long journey of rehabilitation and nursing care ahead of them. Ask the discharging physician for an expected length or recovery time, but also verify those expectations with the home health providers after they have assessed your loved one and have a care plan in place.
Establishing in home care might be a good idea at least temporarily, to relieve some of the family burden and ensure that your loved one’s needs are all met adequately. It is a good idea to ask for in home care agency names from the hospital, and also to do your own research on those agencies. See our previously posted article, The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on in Home Care for more guidance on arranging for senior home care.
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.