When you or a loved one are experiencing a prolonged stay in the hospital, the ultimate goal is to get back home.
Unfortunately, it is not always an easy or smooth transition and often brings an additional set of struggles and details to put in place. There are some things you can do to ease the process:
Be present at discharge.
Discharge planning is a critically important process before leaving the hospital and heading home. There may be significant things that need to be in place at home to maintain and improve the healing that was accomplished in the hospital. There will likely be significant changes to medications, follow up visits to primary or specialty physicians and outpatient therapy to arrange. If you are the patient preparing to go back home, have a friend or loved one there with you when the discharge planning is taking place. It can be overwhelming when you are still recovering from a prolonged illness, to even think about managing all of the additional details of care. Ask all the questions you need to so you are clear about what you are supposed to do when you leave the hospital.
Reconcile your medications.
Despite everyone’s best efforts, discrepancies in medications are far too common. Go over your medication list and then go over it again to make certain you are clear on what you are supposed to be taking when you get home. Especially if you have had a prolonged illness where several different care teams have been managing your care, you need to make certain there are not mistakes in dosages or duplicates of types of medications that may have different names. For example, there are many different medications that are used to prevent blood clots but they have different names so you may not be aware you are taking two or three different medications that have the same effect but are prescribed by different providers. Ask what each medication is for and clarify the dose and frequency before leaving the hospital.
Know who will be managing your care.
Have a clear understanding of who will be primarily managing your care when you leave the hospital. It is likely many different specialty physicians have seen you during your hospital stay and have been a part of the team managing your care. Know who are you supposed to follow up with and how that primary provider is going to know what has occurred in the hospital. It is often assumed there is some magical transfer of information and this is not the case. If all of your providers are within the same system the hospital is in, they may be able to share and access your information. If even one of them is outside the hospital system, it is in your best interest to make certain they get the information they need to properly manage your care. This may mean before you leave the hospital, you request copies of your records to take with you.
Get support systems in place.
If you have family who are willing and able to help you when you get home, let them know what your needs will be. If you don’t have family or friends available, let the hospital staff know this before you go home. There may be resources they can provide to make sure you are able to follow through with your discharge planning instructions. You may simply need some help with meals, transportation or housework for a short time until you have fully recovered. If you need to enlist home health services for some of this help, ask the hospital discharge planner for services in your area. Your insurance provider may reimburse for some of these services depending on the type of plan you have. Don’t hesitate to ask for this help as it may make all the difference in keeping you healthy and happy at home.