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Thursday, September 12, 2024

5 Steps For a Successful Hospital Discharge

You or someone close to you falls, suffers a stroke, illness or other health event and is hospitalized. Only too soon, the hospital nurse or social worker starts talking about discharge, and you need to make arrangements.

Elder Care Helper offers these five key steps to help you plan a safe and appropriate transition from hospital to home or rehabilitation center:

Step 1: Talk to the hospital discharge planner. The hospital discharge department exists to assist with discharge planning, and it is the hospital’s responsibility to see to it that the discharge is a safe one.

Step 2: Discuss the pros and cons of discharge to a skilled nursing home versus home and any other issues specific to your situation with the hospital discharge planner.

Skilled nursing facilities provide a more intense level of care and therapy than is typically the case at home. A nursing facility provides skilled nursing care, therapy, a hospital bed, assistive equipment and personal care assistance, in addition to meals and activities. Services, such as home health care, which includes skilled nursing care, physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as other services and durable medical equipment or out-patient therapy, make a home discharge possible. However, you may also need to arrange for a caregiver or family member to assist with activities and tasks of daily living.

Step 3: Advocate for a safe discharge. Hospital discharge staff are under pressure to make arrangements for many patients. Therefore, it is important to advocate for yourself or your family member to make sure that the arrangements for a safe discharge are in place.

Step 4: Ask the discharge planner or your physician to make arrangements for the services you need, such as transfer and transportation to a nursing home or home health care, and/or durable medical equipment if you are returning home. The hospital will not arrange for personal care services but most likely has a list of approved agencies that you can call. Some discharge planners will narrow the choice to three options. A geriatric care manager who can arrange, coordinate and oversee care can be very helpful if there is no available family in the area. Your discharge planner may also have a recommended list of care managers.

Step 5: Make your choices, confirm arrangements and gather all contact information so that you can follow up after discharge. Review your post-hospital health care instructions, and make sure that any medications that have been ordered will be on hand when you need them.

You may not have time to research the best choice possible and should not feel guilty about that. Once you or the person in need of help is safe, you can take to time to learn about additional options for care and make whatever change or adjustment is necessary.

About the Author: Susan Cherco is a gerontologist, former care manager and founder of Elder Care Helper,, an online resource for eldercare options.

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