What To Do When a Loved One Leaves the Hospital
By Sharon Burch, APRN, CNS
When you or a loved one is coming home from the hospital, you’re probably experiencing two feelings: relief (home sweet home!) and panic (what am I supposed to do now?!). Knowing how to handle the first few days at home can make a big difference in the healing process. Here are 6 important tips for your success.
Be totally honest
The staff person who is handling your discharge will ask about your home setup and who’s there to help. If you don’t have anyone to relieve you occasionally or you’re worried you’re not physically up to the tasks, say so. The planner can usually patch together the care that’s needed with help from local resources.
Create a recovery zone
Get help to create a safe and pleasant recovery zone at home. Pick up throw rugs (a major safety hazard!), declutter, and set up a downstairs bed to avoid stairs if necessary. Ask the discharge-planning nurse what other things you might need for your specific situation—like a shower seat or walker—and order these ahead of time if possible. And pile up the pillows: They can be used to elevate legs, support a head or back or prop up a book on a lap.
Enlist a care buddy
In the stress and rush of discharge day, it may be a challenge to fully absorb the info and instructions about home care that your healthcare providers are giving you. Have a relative or friend sit in on the conversations to ask questions and take notes. And line up someone to pitch in at home so you can take short breaks to recharge.
Find out exactly who to call with questions. Your primary care doctor’s office? The specialist? Write down the number and mark the first follow-up appointment on your calendar.
Ask for a home visit
The discharging doctor or nurse will go over how to change wound dressings or catheters, administer IVs or injections and manage medical technology. If you’ll be in charge of procedures like this and you’re nervous, ask for an early visit from a home-health to watch you and provide feedback.
Put discharge papers in order
Discharge paperwork can be overwhelming and include information that’s not immediately relevant. Ask your doctor or nurse to mark on the paperwork the top three things that are the most important to focus on for the first day or two, such as main symptoms to watch for, increased pain, or restrictions on movement.
Sharon Burch loves her work with patients at Atma Clinic, which you can learn more about here. Outside the clinic, she says, " direct 'Awakening to Grace, a nonprofit organization that inspires and guides people in becoming more relaxed and self-actualized in their home, workplaces, and communities. I also serve on the Board of Directors for the Hawaii Yoga Institute, and I enjoy nature and being with my family and friends. My personal mantra is 'Life is sacred. Let’s honor and celebrate it!'"