If you’ve ever cared for a loved one who has come home after an extended hospital stay, you know it’s not care as usual. Former patients frequently come home with a whole host of new requirements after they are discharged. Everything from physical hygiene routines to dietary requirements to new medication regimens may be introduced during the discharge process and the transition back to home. While a small percentage of seniors may not be able to return home after a hospitalization, most can and would choose to do so, but the transition period is fragile for many and as a family caregiver your awareness of and ability to do what will be required is critical to the success of this mission!
Before your loved one was discharged were you able to speak with a doctor, nurse, or social worker who explained the next steps and answered your questions? If so, you may have been overwhelmed with the complexities you face as you help your mom or dad go home. New medication schedules, new meal plans, follow-up appointments with specialists, rehab exercises and home health visits are common in the post-hospitalization spectrum. If hospice services have been suggested, you should also begin to explore your options here if you haven’t previously done so.
If you did not get to meet with someone for the discharge plan, don’t be discouraged. It’s not too late! Most discharged patients come home with paperwork. Read it, and then call back to ask questions if something isn’t clear. Be sure you know when follow-up appointments should happen and make one if it’s not already scheduled. Check for new prescriptions or dietary changes. You might need to go to the store or pharmacy. If special equipment like a hospital bed or wheelchair will be needed your home health or hospice company can usually set this up prior to discharge. To work ahead, you can initiate these questions, as well as a possible timeline for discharge, early in your dad’s hospital stay. Keep asking the same questions until clear answers begin to emerge.
As you think about helping your aging loved one make the transition back home, carefully assess whether you will need extra help over the next few days or weeks. Be realistic, and don’t be embarrassed to ask for assistance if you need it! You might not feel comfortable bathing your dad if this wasn’t already in your routines. Your mom might have mobility issues now that weren’t present prior to her fall, and you might not be physically strong enough to do a full-body transfer. Home Health services, often covered by Medicare benefits, may well be a part of your care plan for the first few weeks. Utilize these services, and if you need more than the visit plan prescribed, reach out to your support base of family and friends or a professional, reliable home care company like Home Instead Senior Care to supplement the care you give. Considering that 20% of hospital readmissions of seniors are avoidable with adequate post-discharge care, your efforts to plan and execute a well-formed strategy that utilizes all your resources can mean the difference between success and failure at this critical juncture.
For more tips on how to successfully navigate a transition from hospital to home, click here, and Betsy and I hope you’ll join the conversation this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about managing a loved one’s care after a hospitalization.