Preparing for Hospital Discharge

The hospital discharge process may seem stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. With good training, high-quality medical care, and a knowledge of the resources available, the transition can be much smoother. Having a loved one in the hospital can come with a great emotional toll, though. You may not always be thinking as clearly as you usually are, and once you get home and reality sets in, you may not be sure you have all the information you need. That is why being prepared ahead of time is a good idea.

What Can I Do to Prepare?

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that almost one-fifth of seniors with Medicare who were discharged from the hospital in 2003–2004 returned within a month, and 34 percent were rehospitalized within three months. By ensuring you get all the information you need during the hospital discharge process, you may be able to reduce the chances your loved one will have to return to the hospital.

Hospital staff should offer clear instructions about aftercare, the recuperation process, special needs, and any prescribed medications. In some cases, you may not be able to provide all the care your senior needs immediately after hospital discharge by yourself. If this is the case, there are a number of other options available. They include long-term acute care hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and home healthcare visits. Feel free to discuss these options with your loved one’s doctor and ask for more information so that the best decision can be made before she is discharged.

How Do I Learn the Skills I Need?

Sometimes if skilled nursing isn’t necessary, you may need to learn new tasks in addition to your current caregiving duties. Don’t be afraid to ask hospital staff how to do these tasks while your loved one is still in the hospital. A nurse can teach you to turn someone in bed safely, assess breathing, and give injections, as well as a number of other tasks. A physical therapist can show you how to assist with mobility and personal care tasks such as showering. You will feel more comfortable with these skills if you practice them with a trained professional before hospital discharge.

What Should I Ask?

As a caregiver, you are tasked with getting all the information necessary to help your loved one recover. While most hospitals will offer a discharge packet, it is also important that you ask questions to ensure you have all the information you need. Here are some things you may want to ask:

  • Who do I call with questions?
  • Who is in charge of my loved one’s follow-up care?
  • What is the next step in his care plan?
  • What can we expect?
  • What should we focus on at home?
  • What signs should I look for that he needs to be rehospitalized?
  • Are there any specific nutritional restrictions or requirements?
  • Are there community resources that might assist us?

Once discharge day arrives, you’ll have no reason to dread it if you’re prepared. Don’t forget to take notes, review the information given, and ask any questions you may have. This will make the transition from hospital to home less stressful on both you and your loved one.

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