Preparing before leaving the hospital is essential for recovery
After a hospitalization, older adults still need extra care in order to have a smooth recovery.
A successful hospital discharge helps them stay on track and regain as much independence as possible.
And getting prepared before they actually leave the hospital will make a big difference in your older adult’s healing.
That’s because many of the issues that cause problems with recovery could be prevented if you’re both well-prepared for hospital discharge.
But unfortunately, the hospital discharge process is often rushed and confusing.
It can be tough to get clear information from doctors and nurses and you may not know what questions to ask.
That’s why studies show that 40% of patients over 65 had medication errors after leaving the hospital.
Even worse, 18% of Medicare patients discharged from a hospital were readmitted within 30 days.
To reduce the chance that these problems will happen to your older adult, we found a helpful free hospital discharge checklist from Medicare that covers key questions to ask doctors, nurses, and social workers.
We explain what being discharged really means for someone’s health, what a successful discharge is, why many seniors aren’t prepared to leave the hospital, how a hospital discharge checklist improves recovery, and how to get seniors to accept the help they need.
What does being discharged from the hospital really mean?
When someone is discharged (released) from the hospital, it means their doctor has determined that they’ve recovered enough to no longer need hospital-level care.
It doesn’t mean they’re fully recovered.
Even though your older adult is able to leave the hospital, they will still need extra care. They might even need an intense level of care for weeks or months.
Some people are well enough to get proper care and rehab at home (like physical therapy). Others may need a short-term stay in a skilled nursing facility.
What is a successful hospital discharge?
A successful hospital discharge means that your older adult leaves the hospital and continues their recovery without major problems.
Why aren’t seniors well prepared for discharge?
Hospital discharge nurses are often overloaded and unable to spend enough time helping patients and family understand everything they need to know about post-hospital recovery.
That’s why it’s so important to be a strong advocate and make sure you both have all the necessary information before leaving the hospital.
How a hospital discharge checklist improves recovery
Being prepared for the next step down in care, whether it’s at home or in skilled nursing, is important for a smooth recovery.
Medicare has a free hospital discharge checklist that covers the important things you’ll need to know before your older adult leaves the hospital.
It lists key questions to ask about follow-up care, problems to watch for, medication, needed equipment and supplies, and more.
Having a checklist means that you’ll be able to find out about the information, services, and resources that are needed for recovery before leaving the hospital.
After you leave, it becomes much harder to get helpful answers.
How to get seniors to accept needed help during recovery
A critical part of a strong recovery is making sure your older adult follows the doctor’s instructions.
Some people may have unrealistic expectations about what they’ll be able to do on their own after leaving the hospital.
If that’s happening, ask a doctor or nurse to explain to both of you what your older adult will actually be able to do on their own and what will be impossible.
Hearing directly from a medical professional is an effective way to convince seniors to accept the help they need.
It also helps you make sure they’ll have what they need to support their recovery.
Next Step Get the free Medicare Discharge Planning Checklist to plan ahead for a smooth recovery after leaving the hospital (PDF)
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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Appealing Care Services
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Leslie Kernisan, MD MPH
Hospital discharge is indeed a critical time for families to be involved and proactive.
I especially like the caregiver resources at NextStepInCare.org
They were developed by the non-profit United Hospital Fund, in close partnership with many of the country’s experts in caregiving and discharge transitions.
Thanks Dr. Kernisan, this is a great resource. I really like the Hospital-to-Home Discharge Guide (http://www.nextstepincare.org/uploads/File/Guides/Hospital/Hospital_to_Home_Guide/Hospital_to_Home.pdf). Lots of useful information that explains what’s happening and how to get help, if needed.