Transitioning from a hospital environment to home care might be met with mixed feelings of relief and anxiety for your loved one. After discharge from a hospital or nursing home, individuals are more likely to experience an adverse health-related event at home. According to research by Institute of Medicine, presently known as National Academy of Medicine, one in five Medicare enrollees is readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of being discharged. Fortunately, quality transitional care can prevent up to 75% of these readmissions.
As a caregiver, you play an essential role in helping your loved one to safely transition from a healthcare facility to the home environment. You will face challenges along with the person for whom you are caring, so it’s important to thoroughly prepare for their arrival at home.
Start early. Start preparing for discharge when your loved one is admitted to the hospital. Work with hospital staff to create a continuous, timely, and high-quality plan of care that includes follow-up doctor visits and homecare visits when needed. While planning, be aware of the obstacles that will likely arise during the transition. Challenges may relate to preventing falls, monitoring symptoms, managing medication and future appointments with health care providers, managing nutrition, and taking care of yourself as a caregiver.
Your loved one may be exposed to environmental risk factors which could cause falls, trips, or slips. These factors may include poor lighting, unstable seating, objects in pathways, lose handrails, clutter, wet floors, etc. Prepare the home space before your loved one arrives. Clear the walkways, install handrails in bathrooms, and remove tripping hazards (i.e., rugs, extension cords, etc.) to ensure your loved one can move safely around the house.
As a caregiver, you are responsible for monitoring the symptoms of your loved one’s health conditions at home.
- Look for warning signs. Discuss negative symptoms and warning signs with your loved one’s healthcare provider so that you can quickly identify and address concerns before they turn into a medical emergency.
- Communicate and keep health records. Discuss schedules with relatives or friends so that you may take turns checking in on your loved one and monitoring symptoms. Keep records of symptoms and any changes in his or her health condition. Report changes to the doctor.
- Develop an action plan for emergencies. Make a list of after-hours care services available near your loved one. Keep his or her healthcare provider’s information on a list on the fridge. In the event of an immediate and serious emergency, call 911.
Manage Health Appointments and Medicines
Medication dosage and timing and other healthcare commitments like future appointments can be difficult for your loved one to manage independently. You can support your loved one by setting up reminders.
- Send appointment reminders to them and plan on being available if necessary. Your loved one’s compliance with their plan of care is important and missed appointments can increase your loved one’s risk of readmission. When you can, accompany them to their doctor’s appointment.
- Set up a method for medication intake reminders. Your loved one may be taking multiple prescription drugs which can be challenging to keep track of. These mobile applications and automated pill dispensers may be helpful to ensure routine medication intake to prevent adverse reactions.
It might require some time for your loved one to ease into their daily routines at home. This includes their ability to prepare meals for themselves. Help your loved one maintain a balanced diet by helping them shop for groceries and assist them with meal preparations.
Take Care of You Too
Aside from providing care for your loved one, you need to also take care of yourself as a caregiver. Being a caregiver can be physically and emotionally draining. One of the keys to be a successful caregiver is to attend to your own health by taking breaks, eating well, exercising, and asking peers for additional help.
Being a prepared and knowledgeable caregiver will allow you to guide your loved one through this challenging phase of change. Careful planning and anticipation of probable challenges ahead will help you provide successful care for your loved one and keep him or her from returning to the hospital.