You’ve been in the hospital for either a planned or unplanned visit, and now it’s time to make the transition home. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed by what you’ll need to do, and simultaneously you’re probably learning all the new things you’ll have to do for ongoing care.
In this post, we highlight six tips to help you make that move back to home go as smoothly as possible.
More often these days, hospitals are helping patients—especially seniors—successfully head home from the hospital for in-home care. There are several benefits to this strategy for both the patient and the healthcare system. It turns out that home is not just where the heart is, but where patients heal better, and the added benefit of bringing down healthcare costs is significant.
In the article “Hospital Discharge and Readmission,” over at Up To Date, a study of older patients found that a successful Care Transition Intervention Program reduced 30- and 90-day readmission rates with a cost savings of $500 per case. The goal of a planned transfer of care is ideal, as the patient is less likely to need to return to the hospital, which frees up hospital beds for the critically ill.
Before You Exit the Hospital, Do These Things:
Before you’re discharged, you’ll speak with the hospital’s staff about what to expect in the coming days of your recovery. You often end up waiting and waiting for final orders from all the medical professionals involved, and then it feels like you’re bombarded with information. Don’t succumb to panic. By knowing what to ask and expect before discharge, you’ll go home with the assurance that you have your bases covered.
1. Be your own advocate and have a support person, too.
Of course, you want to be your advocate and have control as much as you can, but understand you might not be in your best frame of mind. Bring in a trusted friend or family member as your set of ears and have them help draw up your home plan. Discuss who will be helping you with your additional care needs at home, and whether your home is ready for your change in mobility.
2. Add to your personal health resume
Much like your work resume, you want to keep a personal document of your health history. It should include the names of all the physicians you’ve seen and all major medical treatments. It should also include your list of medications. To that list, you now want to add the reason for your current hospitalization.
All this information will be essential if you need to return to the emergency room due to complications.
3. Understand your care needs upon discharge along with who will be meeting them.
Included on your list might be:
- Vitals checked each day or more often
- Assistance with medications
- Assistance with medical devices or implants such as catheters
- Help with injections
- Assistance with physical therapy
- Assistance with general household items including grocery, errand running, and general care
Depending on the level of care required, you might have a trusted family member who will be with you for some time. Or, you might find it easier to hire a health aide service like those with Home Health Companions. You can also ask if the hospital offers outpatient services specific to any of your needs.
4. Know what to look for—and who to contact.
Be sure you understand the list of symptoms you need to watch for (should they arise). Depending on your situation, this might include anything from changes in the wound to shortness of breath, o changes in temperature, weight gain, or blood pressure.
Just as important as monitoring is knowing who to contact and how if you need assistance. Is it the surgeon or the cardiologist? What’s the direct number for the pharmacy, and who do you call in the case of an emergency? Many healthcare venues provide email contact so you can easily ask questions that don’t need immediate response. This kind of ongoing access can be hugely helpful for mitigating concerns.
5. Understand your medication list.
Know your medication list and what each drug is meant to do. Understand how and when each is to be taken. Track refills, and consider early refills when you might run out on weekends or holidays. Learn from your insurance provider and pharmacist if you can order two months at the same. Often, there is time and money saved with this strategy.
6. Know next steps
Understand and plan for your follow-up visits with physicians and specialists related to your care. Be sure to make an appointment with your primary doctor, too, so they can factor in your latest medical situation in their general care for you.
Ask for any additional resources, including support groups that can help you with ongoing life changes and your recovery needs. Sometimes, there are even programs offered to help with changes in diet and exercise.
If “bringing it all together” for hospital discharge seems overwhelming, consider bringing in a professional such as an Aging Life Care certified professional to gather expertly gather the information and resources you’ll need to make a successful transition.
Nothing counters the terrible instability of illness more than knowledge. Your goal in healing is to deal with what’s in front of you in the immediate of your hospitalization. Your role at this point is to take it one step at a time. Making a plan and understanding your options will be the first step to give yourself confidence and space to heal.