For your older loved one, going home from the hospital after an injury or illness is likely to be a welcomed move. Recovering at home is typically much more comfortable than an extended hospital stay, but it can be challenging to facilitate a smooth transition.
Often, when patients are discharged from the hospital, they’re not ready to resume full activities. Because of this, if their discharge care instructions are not followed carefully, they’re at risk for readmission, something we’re sure you and your recovering loved one both want to avoid. Here are a few tips to help you plan for a smooth discharge and avoid a hospital readmission.
Ensure abilities are assessed before leaving the hospital
Before the hospital develops a discharge plan for your loved one, it’s important that their physical and mental capabilities are assessed. Can they stand on their own? Will they need help with personal care, like showering and using the bathroom? How is their memory and mental state? Understanding how the hospital visit impacted their state of mind and abilities will help you better plan for their transition back home. Being aware of your recovering loved one’s physical limitations can also aid your post-hospital care. Knowing what they can and cannot do physically will keep them safe and help in avoiding a setback.
Decide if rehab is the next step
Sometimes an immediate return home following a hospital stay isn’t optimal. If your loved one is recovering from an illness or injury and needs round-the-clock care but is well enough to not be hospitalized, in-patient rehab might be the best choice. Ailments such as broken hips, joint injuries, stroke, arthritis and nerve impingement are all best treated with short or long term in-patient rehab.
For older adults who need some special care but don’t want to stay in the hospital or a rehab facility, home care services may be the best option. Discuss with their primary care provider the next steps in arranging home care, as well as what to expect from their nurses and how long your loved one will need their care.
Develop clearly defined roles and responsibilities
Once your loved one’s discharge plan has been created, it’s imperative that everyone assisting with their care be present during the discussion of the plan. During this meeting, decide who will be responsible for which caregiving duties and when they need to be carried out. By assigning clearly defined roles and responsibilities, your family can ensure that your loved one’s needs are taken care of and prevent the duties from falling on just one person.
Discuss realistic goals and expectations of progress
After a hospital stay, your loved one may be eager to return to their regular level of activity, and may struggle to accept the need to slow down, even temporarily. When discussing the discharge plan, ask their primary physician what recovery milestones they should be reaching in the coming weeks. You can use this to gauge how well your loved one is doing and set realistic expectations for their return to normal activities.
Additionally, you should use this time to ask the primary physician any questions you may have about the recovery process, medications and who to contact in case of any emergency.
When bringing a loved one home from the hospital, remember that it’s okay to ask questions. If you’re unsure about part of their discharge plan or have questions regarding their medication, reach out to their health care provider for clarity. Proper care after a hospital discharge can greatly reduce the chance of your loved one being readmitted.