You might have mixed emotions when an aging family member is discharged from the hospital after an operation or treatment for an injury. You’ll likely be happy that they can go home again, but worried about how to provide the extra care they’ll need after hospitalization.
It won’t be as simple as driving them home from the hospital. A 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine determined that about one-fifth of Medicare beneficiaries were readmitted to a hospital within 30 days of their first visit. A 2015 study found that seniors are considerably more likely to be readmitted if they have functional impairments which impede their ability to complete daily tasks.
Before your relative is discharged, work with the hospital staff to develop a post-hospitalization plan. A physician may recommend dietary restrictions, activities, new medications, or special equipment to help seniors remain independent. Be sure to reconcile medication recommendations with medications the senior is already taking to ensure that there are no harmful interactions.
The post-hospitalization plan will frequently recommend that seniors get adequate rest. This can help reduce stress and allow them to recover more quickly. A healthy diet is also important, including high fiber foods, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and plenty of water.
Preparing a senior’s home in advance can help them return to independence and avoid the possibility of readmission. Make sure there are no fall hazards such as loose rugs or cords. You may also consider larger modifications, such as adding rails in the bathroom.
Exercise and other activities should be reintroduced gradually. Seniors may be eager to return to the things they were doing before hospitalization, but they should work their way back to this level to avoid injury.
The first few days after a discharge are particularly important. You’ll need to make sure a senior is getting adequate rest, taking the proper medications, and otherwise following the post-hospitalization plan recommended by a physician.
During this time, you should stay with the senior or visit frequently. Make a note of any potential problems, including depression or ailments different from the ones that resulted in the hospitalization, and contact the senior’s health care provider if you have any concerns.
It can be difficult and stressful to help a senior readjust after a hospitalization, so you might consider a home health care provider. These professionals can be hired on a temporary or permanent basis and will help with a variety of tasks, including housekeeping, hygiene, meal preparation, and transportation to medical appointments.
If your relative is living in a senior housing facility, meet with the staff to discuss how their care will change. They may have to move to a different unit, such as a transition from independent living to assisted living. Watch out for any emotional changes in the senior, such as fear or disorientation, and alert the staff if you have any concerns.