At Sunflower Home Health, we understand that the hospital discharge process is a key transition time. Without proper support and resources as well as good understanding of follow up instructions, many individuals will return to the hospital for reasons that could have been avoided. No one wants this, and it can be especially dangerous for elders and persons with chronic conditions.
A hospital visit is tough on anyone, especially elderly patients. It is very common for family members to overlook the discharge process and the challenges that will be faced after discharge. It is important that you start to think about the discharge process at the start of the hospital stay. The doctors and nurses will take care of all that happens at the hospital, so you should start to focus on life after the hospital as soon as possible. Find out who is responsible for discharge planning and introduce yourself, explaining that you will be involved and giving relevant information about the patient’s living situation, supports and concerns. Discharge may not seem like a top concern at the beginning of a hospital stay, but with shorter hospital stay lengths, good groundwork starts as soon as possible.
Second, make sure you are keeping records on your own. An online personal medical record system is an ideal way to manage your loved one’s health history, medications, and store key contacts so this information can be readily available. You can also use a notebook or file to store the information, as long as you have it available and provide good information to new providers. Make sure you communicate information that is vital to you or your loved one’s health, such as medications that really should not be changed or typical complications or concerns that arise during hospitalization or procedures.
Once a patient is released, the first day or two can be challenging. Think about practical issues such as getting new medications, food and personal items while needing to attend to a person in a weakened state. Will you be able to help the patient from bed to bathroom? Services such as Medicare home health care are not meant to fulfill “custodial” needs, so you may need additional home caregiver support. It is imperative that you think ahead and find out about the options for services and rehabilitation after the hospital stay.
Ask for thorough discharge instructions in laymen’s terms and explain that you would like to be there when they are reviewed with the patient. Make a list of questions and help ensure you and your loved one are clear on instructions and who to contact if there is a problem later.
Below, you will find a checklist that you should complete during the discharge process:
- Did I get written discharge instructions explained to me with time to ask questions and clarify any concerns? Items that should be included:
- Reason for admission, procedures done, outcome.
- Do we know who to contact if we have a problem after discharge?
- What symptoms should we be watching for and what do we do if we have a concern?
- Medication list (and how will I make sure all my doctors & providers are updated with the new list)
- Follow up appointments.
- Get information about follow up treatment and therapy that might be essential to recuperation. Find out:
- Will I be receiving therapy services at home, inpatient or outpatient? You will need to select a provider and the hospital will generally provide a list of options if you ask, but you should do your research so that you can make an educated choice. There is information online about provider outcomes and you may wish to check with your loved one’s doctor for recommendations.
- Does insurance cover these services (your insurance may impact the choice of provider)?
- How long can they be expected to last? What outcome is expected? (Share your goals and concerns as well.)
- Find out about the patient’s home care needs and what assistance may be needed in the weeks following the hospitalization. Issues to consider:
- Patient’s functional status: strength, ability to transfer safely, bathing, dressing, weakness, physical limitations.
- Household needs: can the patient take care of the household? Do laundry, clean? Help preparing meals (in compliance with nutritional needs/medical orders)?
- Transportation: will the patient need rides to appointments or help with errands?
- Medication management: consider how the patient will get new medications and discard old ones properly, manage following a new medication routine, communicate changes to all doctors/providers?
- Ensure the home environment will accommodate post-hospital needs:
- Is any special medical equipment needed? Have arrangements been made? Will equipment be delivered and when? Do I need to pick up equipment and where can I do so? Cost/insurance coverage?
- How safe is the home environment? Have we completed a home safety, falls prevention assessment?
- Does the patient have a Personal Emergency Response System in case he/she falls or needs to call for help?
If you would like professional advice on how to prepare for a hospital discharge, what resources are available and how to get the best after-care, please don’t hesitate to navigate to the contact us form on our website and reach out or give us a call at your local office. Those numbers are listed below:
- Charleston – (662) 647-0653
- Clarksdale – (662) 624-4141
- Cleveland – (662)756-4676
- Greenwood – (662) 455-3535
- Grenada – (662) 294-0726
- Indianola – (662) 887-1518
At Sunflower Home Health, we truly believe that education and awareness are the keys to making the Mississippi Delta a healthy and safe place to live, something that we are committed to making a reality.