What happens when your loved one is ready to leave the hospital? Until now you’ve been juggling your career and home responsibilities, visits to your loved one, and meetings with doctors. You haven’t really given any thought to what comes after.
But experts say you need to start planning your loved one’s discharge almost as soon as they enter the hospital.
When your elderly mom or dad has a stroke, heart attack, or other emergency event, they’re rushed to the hospital for acute care. Once the patient has been stabilized and no longer needs hospital-level care, it’s time for discharge—even though they haven’t fully recovered yet.
A medical crisis and hospitalization throws the spouse or adult children of the patient into a whirlwind of decisions, confusing medical jargon, and labyrinth insurance rules.
What You Need to Know
In most cases, a stroke or fall victim will need rehabilitation at a sub-acute rehab facility. The first thing you will need to do is decide which facility is best for Mom or Dad. How to choose a rehab facility is beyond the scope of this article, but here’s a good place to start: Selecting Long Term Senior Care.
The hospital should give you a written discharge plan with instructions for post-hospital care. This is especially important if you’re bringing Mom or Dad home. The plan should include:
- Overall care instructions
- Where the patient is going—i.e. skilled nursing care, sub-acute rehab, home
- Medication instructions, along with possible side effects
- Symptoms to watch out for
- What to do if these symptoms occur
- Any necessary follow-up appointments
Make sure to go over the discharge plan with the patient’s doctor or nurse. If you don’t understand something, speak up and ask for clarification. The day before discharge can be a frenzied experience, especially if the hospital only informed you about the discharge that day. Take a few deep breaths to keep calm, and don’t worry about being assertive in making sure you understand the doctor’s instructions.
For more information about planning your discharge, check out this article from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
When discharge day comes, make sure you are well-rested and have eaten well. Bring along nutritious snacks and an extra drink or two for you and the patient. Getting discharged from the hospital can be a long process with a lot of waiting, so make sure you’re prepared.
With some advance planning, you can help your parent or loved one have a seamless transition from the hospital to a rehab facility.