Hopefully you never have to experience this but inevitably, it will happen to some. That dreaded phone call that your elderly loved one has fallen or suffered some type of medical emergency and they have been admitted to the hospital. This can be a scary time for everyone involved and have the potential for a long road to recovery ahead. It may not even occur to you when your loved one is being admitted to the hospital that you need to start planning for their discharge. This undoubtedly is a very chaotic time, fraught with worry and concern. However, there is no better time than immediately upon their admission to begin to plan for the eventuality that they will need to transition back home.
The reason it is so important is because it is inevitable that things will be somewhat different upon their return home and you need to be prepared. As your loved ones caretaker, it is up to you to help ensure a smooth transition back home with the appropriate supports in place. For example, if your loved one breaks their hip and needs a replacement, they may need certain tools to help them reach thing ors to help them dress themselves. It will alleviate stress and make the transition much smoother if they know that these things have been put into place already and are ready and waiting for them upon their return home.
When your loved one arrives at the hospital, if it is possible, try to find out who the social worker assigned to their case is. You and this social worker will be there as advocates for your loved one. Make sure the social worker knows who is the point of contact in your family for your loved one. Whether it is you or another family member or even a Geriatric Care Manager you’ve hired who is working with your loved one. The social worker will also be there to help set up any community support services your loved one may need once they are discharged so again, make sure you are in contact with them and that they know you are the point of contact for them. Make sure they have all of your contact information as well as contact info for an alternate spokesperson for your loved one.
Also, while in the hospital, it is important for your loved one’s primary care doctor to be contacted. It is extremely important to ensure continuity of care so make sure that the primary care doctor is in the loop. Follow up at discharge to make sure that a copy of your loved ones medical records are being sent to their primary care doctor and make an appointment with them for sometime shortly after discharge. Having the primary involved in their treatment will ensure a smoother road to recovery and they may be able to catch any inconsistencies in your loved ones behavior or overall health since they may know them better then the hospital doctors.
Another extremely important thing to remember is that your loved one might have a whole bunch of new medications prescribed to them depending on what landed them in the hospital in the first place. Returning home and not feeling 100% is hard enough to deal with especially if they are in pain or have limited mobility. There are a ton of adjustments going on for them and adding multiple new meds to the mix can be confusing and ultimately be dangerous if they forget doses or forget they took a dose and take it again. Plan to organize their meds in easy to read containers or make a chart so they can check off what they took and when so it is easy to see what comes next and how much. Something as small as that can help avoid major issues upon returning home.
If all of this feels overwhelming or stressful, maybe it would be in the best interest of your loved one for you to hire a Care Manager to handle the transition and to advocate for them. A care manager can connect you to resources you may need and assist in getting your loved one the appropriate supports.
Just remember, thinking about transitioning home starts at admission! It’s never too early to start planning for a successful return home on the road to recovery.
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