How to keep seniors safe at home after hospital discharge

We often worry about the aging loved ones in our family, but this worry is heightened dramatically upon a crisis or injury that calls for immediate medical assistance and admission to a hospital. It can change our plans and routines overnight, and leave us making changes and decisions on the spot, all the while dealing with the emotional strain of the actual event.

Once your loved one is safe and being cared for in a hospital setting, the biggest concern is usually what will happen next. What will their condition be upon discharge? What changes will need to be made to ensure they stay safe and healthy and avoid re-admission. Will they still be able to live alone? What are the risks?

Seniors who are being discharged from hospital are typically at highest risk in the first 30 days after discharge for re-admission. This is when the transition needs to be made from full time medical care to life back at home. They need to be able to have the strength and stamina to care for themselves, or reliable care provided. They must be able to understand the diagnosis and current status update from the doctor, as well as instructions for medication, care of any injury or post-surgical site if applicable, and how to assess their condition in the event something goes wrong. They need the mobility or resources to have prescriptions filled as well as food and other necessities restocked at home. These are enormous challenges to manage alone.

If you have an aging loved one who has been discharged from hospital, here are ways to ensure they stay as safe and healthy as possible:

Get all details in writing

It is easy to be overwhelmed during medical appointments, and many seniors leave conversations with health professionals unsure of details, or hesitant to ask important questions. They may misunderstand explanations of necessary care, and forget details of medications and dosages. If possible, have someone present during conversations before discharge to ensure details of diagnosis or treatment of injury is written down. Make a record of what medical care has been provided, what care is needed after discharge and the name and dosage of any medication they need to take, as well as specific instructions. Write down what complications could arise and when they should seek medical assistance, as well as dates for recommended follow up.

Arrange for safe transportation home

While some hospitals will send discharged patients home in a cab, this is not ideal as it places a heavy responsibility on a potentially frail senior to get inside their home, get settled and ensure they have fresh groceries and new prescriptions filled. It is safer to have someone take the senior home, get them settled and comfortable, and take care of any necessary tasks like food preparation, running errands, or keeping family members updated. They can also ensure any new medications are taken on schedule, and create a new routine for medications that will be easier for your aging loved one to maintain later on.

Have a caregiver ready for the transition home

There is a lot to handle in the first week, and especially the first few days, after discharge from the hospital. It’s important that someone be available to help establish new routines with medication, watch recovery to flag any issues or complications, and keep communication lines open with family and health care practitioners. They can ensure prescriptions are filled, fresh food is available, prepare meals and be on hand to assist your aging loved one with physical tasks such as getting in and out of bed, personal hygiene, and doing necessary tasks around the home.

Ensure their home is safe and any accommodations made

Another reason that a senior should have someone to assist them after a hospital discharge is to ensure that any safety accommodations are made promptly. It may be necessary for them to sleep on the main floor to avoid stairs for a time, or to have a phone moved closer to their bed in case of emergency. They may have pets that need care, or that need to be kept at a safe distance for a time while healing and recovery take place. If the hospital admission was due to a fall, there may be adjustments that need to be made in the home before a senior should be left alone.

Arrange transportation to follow up medical appointments

Make a note of follow up medical appointments and ensure safe transportation is arranged in advance. It can be tempting to skip these follow-up’s when a senior thinks they are doing fine, or doesn’t want to ask for help. Traveling alone may seem daunting or be impossible depending on their condition. Appointments are also easily forgotten or missed when a daily routine has been altered or paused during recovery.

Smooth the transition & develop a long term plan

Once the first few days have been managed safely and your aging loved one seems to be recovering well and responding to new medications, it’s time to plan how to handle the transition back to regular routine as well as manage expectations as to what their new normal may look like. Ensuring they are safe and well cared for after hospital discharge will allow these conversations to take place more constructively, with time to explore and consider options, consult with their doctor, and even involve the senior in decisions. All of these elements will help create healthy, positive change that will accommodate recovery and encourage a senior to make the transition more positively.

A sudden admission to hospital can be a worrisome time, but with the right support and resources, your family can move forward knowing your aging loved one can make the transition safely. As always, follow the instructions of your doctor or healthcare practitioner when creating a plan for care after hospital discharge.

For more information on how Senior Homecare by Angels can help you and your loved one with the discharge process from the hospital and prepare a transition plan home, take a look at our Ready-Set-Go home Service.

Have questions or feedback on what you just read? Please don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d love to chat with you.

~  Senior Homecare by Angels Calgary Team