Planning for a Successful Hospital Discharge

By Ruby Cemental

Whether you're being discharged from the hospital after an emergency or planned procedure, there's always a list of do's and don'ts. Discharge planning begins soon after the patient enters the hospital. Usually an RN or hospital social worker prepares the discharge plan. Here are a few tips on how to plan for a successful discharge procedure.

Dangers of Hospital Discharge

Coming home after being admitted to the hospital, can be very overwhelming. Studies show that 40% of patients over the age of 65 suffer from medication errors after leaving the hospital, and 28% of patients discharged from a hospital are readmitted within 30 days.

Seniors who don't take proper care may find themselves readmitted to the hospital. However, there are some things you can do to prevent this.

Pre-Discharge Preparations

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services require hospitals to provide patients and patient representatives with the following information:

  • Options for post-discharge care
  • Information regarding continued use of medication
  • Expected recovery or need for on-going care
  • Recommendations for addressing concerns, questions or problems

In addition, hospital personnel will arrange for transfers to other healthcare facilities and provide referrals to necessary services.

But that's not all you need for a safe discharge. Below is a list of other considerations to think about before discharge. 

  1. Request a discharge evaluation and written discharge plan a few days before the anticipated end of the hospital stay. Read the discharge plan carefully.

  2. Make your own "To Do" list. For example, do you need to arrange for long-term care, buy or rent special medical equipment, make modifications to the home environment, etc.

  3. Evaluate your resources. What is covered under Medicare/Medicaid, supplemental insurance, long-term care insurance, etc.?

  4. Ask for help. If you have questions about the discharge plan or concerns about your ability to execute the plan, ask to speak to nurse or hospital representative who presented the plan.

  5. Make an action plan for the day of discharge. How will the patient be transported home or transferred to a new facility? Will prescription medications be sent home with the patient or will it be necessary to stop by the pharmacy? What arrangements must be made for meals and tending to personal hygiene? Also, keep in mind that the patient needs mental stimulation, social interaction and emotional support throughout the recovery process. Make sure reading material, remotes and a cell phone are readily accessible.

Post-Discharge Considerations

  1. Properly administer medications. New prescriptions are often given after a procedure. The necessary information regarding dosage and prescriptions will be in the instructions. There are notes on continuing or discontinuing current medications as well. It is possible that known side effects will also be mentioned.

  2. Care for incisions or wounds. Care and cleaning directions for any incision sites are always included in discharge paperwork. Depending upon the exact procedure, some wounds may need careful care at home. Others require follow-up with the doctor in his office.

  3. Make sure your senior gets the right food. The doctor will advise what foods are okay to eat and when it is safe to do so. This will also pertain to water and other beverages. A specific diet is a possibility for aftercare.

  4. Watch for symptoms. Signs of what is normally expected and also what isn't should be on the paperwork. It should spell out the common side effects and let you know what things are a cause for concern.

  5. Exercise. It is common for discharge paperwork to include instructions regarding exercise and movement. Many surgeries or procedures require the patient to rest and limit movement once home. Others need the senior to exercise and get the blood flowing to help the body heal faster. Follow the directions closely.

  6. Attend follow-up visits. The doctor will let you know when they want to see your senior back in to check up on them. The paperwork will show if there is an appointment already set or if you'll need to call in for one. Information regarding specialists or other treatments required is included here.

Caring Senior Service has the experience, compassion, and training necessary for comprehensive home care, and we also offer a wide range of home care services that are all designed to make life easier for seniors and their families. If you have any questions or a discharge plan requires at-home care or senior services, contact us. Learn more about preparing for a successful hospital discharge in our Guide to Avoiding Preventable Hospital Visits. Access our free content library by first locating a Caring Senior Service near you

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Tags: Hospital