The ins and outs of hospital stays

Today’s hospital stays and discharge experiences for aging loved ones may seem very different from the way it used to be “back in the day.”

Previously, care planning and discharge was mostly directed by physicians whereas today a multitude of medical professionals are involved in decisions around care and discharge, including but not limited to nurses, social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and discharge planners.

During a hospital stay, a primary physician and other medical staff will work with families to plan discharge.

Caregivers and the patient are important members in the discharge process and it’s vital to communicate basic information to medical staff such as current living situation, ability to do daily activities and who else is available to support the patient.

Upon admission, the patient and family should be aware of the diagnosis, expected treatment and what changes in health to expect in the recovery process.

Discussing hospital discharge early on is important to a successful and smooth transition back home. Understanding what criteria is used to determine when you aging loved one are ready for discharge is also valuable in making future plans.

There may be a misconception regarding the term “discharge.”

Aging loved ones and families may assume that readiness for discharge means the patient is in good health, independent and no longer ill. However, hospital discharge typically means that an aging loved one no longer requires daily medical care and monitoring by hospital staff.

When discharged, be sure to receive very clear instructions on which daily activities your aging loved one can perform and at what intensity.

As you or your family member prepare for discharge from hospital, consider the following:

• What type of care will you get after discharge?

• If someone is helping you after discharge, be sure to write down his or her contact information and keep it handy.

• Educate yourself on your health or medical condition and how you can make improvements.

• Ask what problems or symptoms to look for and what to do about them.  Make sure you get a contact name and phone number to call if you need to.

• If you are prescribed new medications while in hospital, be sure to ask your pharmacist if you can still take your medications, vitamins and supplements that you took before you were admitted.

• Will you require medical equipment such as a walker, commode, etc?  Write down where to call if you have questions about the equipment.

• If you need help with certain tasks, make sure staff show your aging loved one and family members the necessary steps. It’s best if caregivers or the aging loved one asks staff to watch them perform the task and ask for feedback.

•  A discharge summary is sent to your family physician; however, it’s helpful to have written instructions that you or your aging loved one can read and understand.

• Write down any follow up appointments, tests or lab work that are required.

If time permits, it’s always helpful to make sure the home is ready before discharge including getting meals ready and the fridge stocked, a quick clean and tidy as well as ensuring the home is safe to minimize the risk of falls or accidents.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.


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