Helping a Senior Safely Transition from the Hospital to Home
Questions to Ask before a Senior is Discharged from the Hospital
When a senior loved one is hospitalized, especially if it wasn’t for a planned surgery, it can be a frightening and stressful time for the entire family. Adult children often feel overwhelmed with information and the quick decisions they are sometimes forced to make.
One suggestion that will help you feel more in control is to start a notebook. Keep in it your loved one’s hospital room. As you and other family members have questions or concerns, write them down. The family member who is in the room when the physician visits can refer to the notebook, ask the questions listed and document the answers.
Before your senior family member is discharge from the hospital, make sure you fully understand:
- Prescriptions: Ask what prescriptions and over-the-counter medications your older family member will need to take, how much of it and how often. Remember to ask about continuing those medications your loved one may have been taking before this hospitalization occurred.
- Know the Side Effects: Clarify what side effects the medications might cause and if/when you should be concerned. Older adults might require a few days to adjust to some medications.
- Project Timeline: To help you better plan and prepare, ask about the projected timeline for your senior family member’s recovery. For an older adult, especially someone with other health conditions, recovery may take longer than expected. Having realistic expectations is important.
- Symptoms to Report: One of the most important questions to ask is what symptoms may indicate there is a serious problem. Knowing what the warning signs are can allow the physician to intervene early and possibly prevent your loved one from being readmitted to the hospital.
Here are some things you should know as you get organized for your family member’s discharge from the hospital to home:
- Contact List: Before you leave the hospital, be sure you have a complete list of the physicians who were involved in your loved one’s care and their contact information.
- Follow-up Appointments: If it isn’t listed on the discharge paperwork you receive, be certain to write down any follow-up appointments you need to make for your loved one. It might be with their primary care physician, an outpatient therapy provider or a specialist.
- Durable Medical Equipment and Supplies: See what durable medical equipment and other supplies your family member will need to continue their care after they are home. The discharge planner at the hospital should be able to help you make these arrangements.
- Demonstrate Required Tasks: If you will be required to perform dressing changes or other clinical tasks, be sure you are comfortable doing so. Ask the nursing staff to show you how to do it, and take detailed notes that you can refer back to when you alone and trying to care for your senior loved one.
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