When an elderly parent is discharged from the hospital you are likely to feel a variety of emotions. While it is certainly a cause for celebration, the discharge process and transition can be stressful. This is especially true if you are unsure of the level of care your loved one will require once they leave the hospital and return home.
When it comes time for a parent to be discharged from a hospital or rehabilitation center, it helps to know what to expect. Before the big day comes, Joan Davelis, RN, of Physician’s Choice Private Duty, recommends adult children ask themselves the following questions:
- Does my parent’s home have the necessary equipment to keep them safe?
- Will there be a responsible person at home with my parent?
- Who will be responsible for making sure that my parent gets the proper nutrition?
- What guidelines are in place for the correct distribution of medications?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help reduce the chance of being blindsided when your parent arrives home. It also is essential that you talk with your parent’s primary care physician well in advance of discharge so that a specific health care plan can be put in place.
The more you know what to expect regarding your loved one’s living situation in advance, the better. It is important to write down any questions you have for your parent’s primary care provider so that you don’t forget any. What follows is a list of questions to get you started:
- What specific therapies will my parent require?
- Will we need help with bathing or dressing?
- Will my loved one require someone to be with them 24 hours a day?
- What problems or symptoms do we need to look for?
- Who do we call in an emergency?
If your loved one requires medical equipment or an in-home caregiver, you should talk with their health insurance carrier or Medicare to find out what is covered before your parent leaves the hospital.
Most elderly patients returning home after a hospital stay or stint in a rehab center will require time to adjust to their “new normal.” While in a perfect world you could be there with your parent 24 hours a day while they adjust, this is not always possible. The next best option is to arrange for in-home care.
If your loved one was relatively independent before their hospital stay, it may take them some time to get used to having to ask for help. Here are some ways to make that easier:
- Interview potential caregivers to ensure that they are a good fit for your parent. A quality home health care agency will work with you to make sure your parent is comfortable with their in-home caregiver. Consider having the caregiver visit your loved one in the hospital so they can become acquainted.
- Ask the home health care agency to evaluate the safety of your parent’s home and recommend any areas that need to be addressed. For example, adding toilet safety rails.
- Let the caregiver know your loved one’s likes and dislikes. This includes everything from food to television channels.
A successful discharge from the hospital and transition back to home can be stressful on your parent and you. However, having a plan in place and knowing what questions to ask will allow for as smooth a transition as possible. It also will go a long way toward preventing readmissions.