Getting Ready for Your Hospital Discharge
So, your loved one has been in the hospital for a while, and the hospital says they will be discharging this patient soon. Usually a hospital discharge nurse or social worker will be in charge of the paperwork and arrangements for sending the patient home. You will need to hear from the physician and the discharge nurse about the details of the medical follow-up appointments and the medications that the patient must continue.
Before a discharge, the main questions that the hospital will want answered are about the safety of the environment and who will be caring for the patient at home.
Probably, the patient will be quite happy to go home after a hospital stay. And you are happy too, but you should realize that there are some preparations to make that transition successful.
Voice Your Concerns
If you have questions or doubts, then this is the time to speak up and tell them you need to know how to be ready for the patient to come home. Discuss your concerns openly and ask for help from the social work department or discharge nurse before the discharge date.
- What equipment does the patient need at home? Do you need a hospital bed, oxygen supplies, a wheelchair at your home? How can you or the patient pay for these with your Medicare, Medicaid or other insurance plans?
- Is there safe access to the house for the patient? Is there a ramp, or a porch lift, or an indoor elevator for the patient who cannot manage a flight of stairs or even a few steps? If not, how and when can those modifications or arrangements be made?
- What kind of assistance in daily routines might be needed by the patient? When toileting? When bathing? For meals? For getting around the house? A nurse can probably give you information about which daily activities might be the most difficult for the patient to manage independently. Do you need more information and assistance in accomplishing any of these things with the patient?
- Is it realistic that you can be the caregiver given your own health and strength and other responsibilities? Candidly explain your own health conditions and the other duties you have, and discuss how the addition of caregiving duties could affect you. What assistance might you need?
- Are you available when the patient will need help? If you are working, you will have to find another family member, or a health care agency to be with the patient when you are away. Ask the social worker to help you find an home health care agency that is affordable, near your home, and ready to start when the patient comes home. Interview your home health care workers yourself to see that this will be a workable situation for you.
- How long might the patient need this level of assistance? Perhaps the patient is on the road to an independent lifestyle after recovery, or perhaps this patient has a prognosis of continuing serious health problems. You need to know what to expect and to plan accordingly.
- Will there be anyone at the hospital, the home health care agency, or the doctor’s office whom you can ask for help when you have difficulty with caregiving issues? A kind voice on the phone can be very reassuring, and you should know that you are welcome to contact them with questions and problems.
Caregiving at home can be the most comfortable, convenient, and practical method of patient care, but careful preparation is needed to assure that it is the most effective method for you and the patient. Unfortunately, when there is a hospital discharge plan that is inadequate or unrealistic, then the caregiver and the patient experience many frustrations and become depressed.
The stress and depression will impact both the patient and the caregiver over time. This could lead to inadequate patient care and additional hospitalizations. You can avoid problems now by making arrangements that will be practical, affordable, and compatible with your needs.
If you and your hospital have done effective discharge planning, home is a great place to be after a hospitalization.
Be safe and healthy at home!