If a senior loved one will soon be discharged from the hospital, planning for a smooth transition home is important. Being prepared can help prevent a trip to the emergency department and the risk for being re-hospitalized.
Most adult children are at a loss to know what to do to help their aging parent prepare for their return home. In most cases, the secret to success lies in being organized and asking the right questions before you leave the hospital.
When an Older Loved One is Hospitalized
Having someone you love hospitalized can be stressful and overwhelming. The amount of detailed, complex information physicians may share with families can be tough to keep track of. Our first suggestion is to keep a notebook in your loved one’s room. Document everything physicians and other health professionals share with you. Ask other family members to do the same if you aren’t in the room during a physician’s visit.
You can also use the notebook to write down your questions and concerns as they arise throughout the day. When their doctors or nurse practitioner make rounds, ask your questions and document the answers.
As your loved one’s discharge date gets closer, review the questions again. Make sure you are clear on what to expect next in their recovery and are able to identify any changes in health status that might require physician intervention.
Questions to Ask Before a Senior is Discharged from the Hospital
Before you leave the hospital, make sure you know:
- Medication Needs: What medications (including over-the-counter medicine) your older family member will need to take, at what time of day or night each dose should be administered and the exact dosage of each medication.
- Side Effects and Adverse Reactions: Because our bodies process medication differently as we grow older, seniors are at higher risk for medication interactions and side effects. Be sure you are aware of any potential issues so you can quickly spot a small problem in time to prevent it from becoming a bigger one.
- Medical Equipment: Talk with the social worker to see if any medical equipment or supplies will be needed once your senior loved one is back home. The social worker or discharge planner usually helps make arrangements for these items.
- Hands-on Care: Ask the physician or the nurse if you will need to perform any hands-on care for your family member. If, for example, you will need to changes bandages on wounds, be certain they show you how to do it a few times. It might help if they let you change the dressing while they watch so you are more comfortable doing so when you are on your own.
- Next Steps in Recovery: While it isn’t always easy for a physician to predict how a patient’s recovery will progress, he or she can probably give you an idea. Keep in mind that if your senior loved one has other health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, their recovery period might be longer.
- Warning Signs: Ask what warning signs you should watch for that might indicate a problem and what you should do if you see those symptoms in your family member. Early intervention is often the key to preventing hospital readmissions.
Organizing for a Senior Loved One’s Transition from Hospital to Home
Our final tip to help you prepare for a loved one’s discharge from the hospital is to make sure you have the following information:
- Physician List. Make sure you have you the names and contact information for each physician who was involved in their care.
- Follow-up Appointments. Your family member will likely be required to have follow-up appointments with one or more of their treating physicians. Be certain you have the dates and times for any that have been scheduled for you or the list of which appointments you will need to make for your senior loved one once they are discharged.
Finally, don’t leave the hospital without sitting down with a nurse or other hospital team member to review your senior loved one’s discharge report. This will be your last opportunity to ask questions before you head for home so be sure you make the most of it!