Experiencing a hospital stay with your loved one of any age — or for yourself as a caregiver — often brings unexpected changes and uproots your routine tremendously. After the stay is complete, follow these 10 tips to stay home safely and successfully.
1. Discharge Paperwork
Before you leave the hospital, you will be provided with discharge paperwork. A staff member must review this paperwork with you to ensure you understand why you were admitted to the hospital, what your current medications and recommendations are, and instructions about any follow-up care. Keep this paperwork close by during your recovery so you have an easy and quick reference, if needed.
2. Personal support system
Enlist the support of family and friends. If this is not an option, seek out neighbors, church members, and volunteer services. Establish a Plan A and Plan B of solid supporters you can rely on.
3. Paid support system
Depending on your situation, hiring private home care may help. Home care agencies hire trained caregivers whose services range from light housekeeping to meal prepping, to providing hands-on direct care for activities of daily living. Typically you can arrange your preferred schedule with the agency, which is helpful as you’re getting back to a normal routine. Unsure if a home care agency is right for you, or unsure of how to find the right one? Review this checklist.
What to look for in a home care agency
Are they accredited, licensed, and insured?
- Accreditation establishes a high quality of excellence in care.
- Does it have the required license?
- Do they have proper insurance coverage for employees and clients?
What’s the caregiver hiring process?
- Do they require a background check?
- Do they require valid certifications/licenses?
- Do they require a reference check?
How do they educate their caregivers?
- Is education provided ongoing, and if so, how often?
- Are there any specialties?
- Do they offer dementia training?
Do their services meet your needs?
- Direct care
What is the cost?
- The rates vary between the types of services (medical vs. non-medical) and the lengths of the shifts.
- Do they accept long-term care insurance or other financial assistance?
Are there a minimum number of hours required?
- Some agencies require a set amount of hours per shift/day before agreeing to perform services.
4. Adapting to your home environment
When you leave the hospital, your physical limitations may have increased or changed. You will need to adapt your living environment to your current needs. Getting appropriate equipment in place before leaving the hospital is ideal, however sometimes certain obstacles can be missed in the assessment. Consider these potential home hazards and obstacles we may overlook:
- Do you need a walker or wheelchair to get around at home?
- Will your wheelchair be able to fit into your hallway, bathroom, and room door entrances?
- Are you able to climb stairs? Do you need to accommodate to your first-floor?
- Are there steps to enter your home? Can you do it safely?
- Are there any fall hazards at home such as shower thresholds, rugs, or rooms crowded with stuff on the floor?
You may have always been the cook in your household, but someone else is going to have to step up during your recovery. Recruit the individuals from your personal support system who can either come to your home to prepare a meal or do it in advance.
If your support system doesn’t know their way around a kitchen, encourage purchasing prepared meals from the grocery store or order take-out meals. Check into your local Meals on Wheels program or your local church. Do you have a tech-savvy family member? Ask them to create a meal train so you have a scheduled amount of meals headed your way.
After you narrow down your personal and extended support system, you can begin delegating what particular tasks need to be completed. Transportation will be one of them.
It is likely you will have a follow-up appointment with your primary care physician a few days after your discharge home. If someone from your support system cannot accommodate for this appointment, local public transits often offer discounts or free transportation for aging adults. Many local church volunteers or active Veteran Affairs members offer transportation services as well.
Getting medications filled after a hospital stay or a doctor’s appointment has never been easier. Medical providers receive the contact information from your preferred pharmacy on file, and it’s usually ready to be picked up within 15 minutes of being ordered. In case transportation to the pharmacy is an issue, most local pharmacies have a free delivery service.
Many pharmacies also offer the service of dispensing your medication into a pillbox (also known as a mediset). Knowing that your medication is organized and readily available to be self-administered is a relief for caregivers and care receivers alike!
8. Care coordinator support
Hospitals are currently under a federal mandate to decrease any readmission within 30 days of someone being admitted. For this reason, there are many incentives in place to help prevent readmissions — including the implementation of a care coordinator.
Upon your release from the hospital, you will likely receive an order for home health care. This service allows for a visiting nurse and visiting therapists to come to your home and follow up on your immediate care after leaving the hospital. Depending on your insurance, it might cover the visits up to 100 percent, or they may only cover a particular number of visits. Utilize this service for as long as you meet the criteria to do so (they will inform you when you don’t!).
9. Area Agency on Aging (AAA)
This is a great resource that far too many people don’t know about! Every county across the US has a designated area agency on aging (some smaller/more rural counties may work together). The AAA (not the roadside service version!) is where you can find the benefits for which many aging adults and their caregivers are eligible. You can also use it as a liaison to find out where and what additional benefits and resources may be available given your unique situation. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging here.
Whether you are transitioning from the hospital as a patient or as the caregiver, you need to also remember to take care of yourself. At times, the days may feel endless and you may wonder when things will ever feel normal again. But in order for you to take care of your loved one, you need to be taking care of yourself.
“Instead of a week-long vacation, treat yourself to a minute-long vacation! This may seem underwhelming, but give it a shot and you may just find that it does the trick. For just 60 seconds, you can be a “normal person,” enjoying a “normal day,” free of sickness, pain, worry — and you can be far, far away.”Eliza Brown, How to Take a Caregiver Mini Vacation
Transitioning home after a hospital stay can feel daunting — but it doesn’t have to be. Do the best you can to get all your ducks in a row for either yourself or our loved one, and hopefully everything will fall smoothly into place. And if you need support or guidance along the way, our coaches are standing by!
About the author
Bobbi Jo Curty is our family care navigator, an experienced geriatric social worker (with a decade in the industry!), and one of our caregiving coaches. Read her story.