Your senior loved one is ready to come home and you are overwhelmed with details! You need to schedule equipment, an in-home caregiver, and doctor appointments all while working full-time. And what about paying for everything? That’s overwhelming too! The most important task is a safe hospital discharge. Read on for 6 tips for a safe hospital discharge to help you take care of your loved one.
Before we dive into the 6 tips for a safe hospital discharge, let’s go over a few facts about discharge planning. A doctor decides when the patient is well enough to leave the hospital. The doctor also decides where the next level of care should take place. While going home is ideal, a patient may need an alternative. Alternatives to going home may be a nursing home, a rehab center, or a long-term acute care hospital. These providers give short-term 24-hour care for the elderly.
Remember, you are not alone in planning the discharge. You will have a team of hospital employees help you including a social worker and a nurse. Medicare requires hospitals to start discharge planning the day of admission. This will help you plan for a safe hospital discharge early. Medicare also requires hospital employees follow up with you after discharge to make sure all is going well for your loved one.
6 Tips for Safe Hospital Discharge
Tip #1 Have a 24-Hour Accessible Contact Person and Number
You will receive a lot of details at the time of discharge. Once you bring your loved one home, you will have questions. It’s natural and you’ll want the peace of mind knowing that you can get the answers you need day or night. A 24-hour contact person and number will help guide you to keep your loved one safe.
Tip #2 Insist on Proper Training for All Caregivers
Finding the time to learn new equipment or medical procedures your loved one will need at home may be difficult, but it is very important for a safe hospital discharge. Insist on proper training before bringing your loved one home. And remember to have a backup or two to help you. Allow time for practice a few days before discharge to gain confidence.
Tip #3 Speak Up
If you are not the caregiver type, speak up and let the discharge team know. Family members often feel obligated to take on the caregiver role. This is not good for the patient or the caregiver. Caregiving is hard work and takes time. If you know you are not able to meet the demands, let the team know early to find an alternate.
Tip #4 Get In-Home Care
The care needed at home most likely will be short-term. Initially your loved one may need help with activities of daily living like mobility, bathing, eating, dressing, and toileting. But the goal is always to help the patient recover independently. Early in the hospitalization, ask about in-home care after discharge. Many services offer non-skilled caregivers to help with activities of daily living. The discharge team can guide you on whether in-home care is right for your loved one.
Tip #5 Consider Home Modifications Early
Your loved one may need some mobility aids to stay independent. Many homes are not designed for wheelchairs or walkers. You will want to prevent fall risks and other safety concerns. Talk with the discharge planning team about a home safety assessment and the type of equipment your loved one will need after discharge. Schedule home modifications early for timely completion of the project. This will prevent your loved one from going to a short-term facility.
Tip #6 Ask About Paying for Care at Home
Medicare and many insurance plans do not pay for all home services. Medically necessary care is usually covered short-term. But long-term care is usually self-pay. Some long-term care insurance plans will pay for extended care in the home. Check the policy early to learn about the benefits. Call your insurer or speak with the discharge planning team for more information. Remember to keep careful records of your conversations with the insurance company.
Patients are discharged from the hospital sicker and quicker than in the past. It is important to share your concerns early with the discharge team for a safe hospital discharge. You want the plan to go smoothly to prevent re-admission to the hospital. Medical errors are common and up to 18% of Medicare patients are readmitted within 30 days of discharge.
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