It is always good news when an older loved one is discharged from the hospital. However, that puts into motion yet another phase of their care: the one that takes place at home. Seniors released from the hospital may still be recovering from their surgery, illness or injury and remain frail and in pain. It is important that you have the full spectrum of support services necessary to guarantee a safe and appropriate recovery.
Here are three ways in which you can line up support for you and your loved one before he or she goes home.
1. Work with the hospital’s discharge planner. Discharge planners are responsible for making sure that you have the support you need at home. This can include everything from professional home care to special devices such as wheelchairs and walkers. Make sure that you have all the care instructions you need including a complete list of medications. If there are gaps in care at home caused by work or daily responsibilities like picking up children from school, discuss these with the discharge planner. It is his or her responsibility to connect you with professional home care services and other types of support. The goal of the release plan is to ensure a smooth transition from hospital to home.
2. Become familiar with support services in your community. Most every community has senior support services that can help you when your loved one comes home. They range from professional home care agencies to councils on aging. Before you engage a home care agency, make sure they are certified in senior care. Use a checklist to understand the in-home care services they offer. Know what payments the home care agency accepts and if their services are covered by Medicare and/or Medicaid. Plan ahead in case you have to enroll and wait for payments to be processed.
Councils on aging often have numerous programs for seniors ranging from advocacy to companionship services. In most states councils on aging operate on the county level. To find the one near you simply conduct a quick web search for “councils on aging” and the name of your county.
3. Plan for good nutrition. Returning home from the hospital doesn’t mean that one’s appetite returns. Exhaustion may interfere and medications can alter taste buds. However, good nutrition is extremely important for a good recovery. Fill the refrigerator with foods that are appetizing, yet easy to eat. Yogurt and pudding are easy to eat, nutritious dairy products.
Applesauce is packed with vitamins and whole grain toast is healthy as well. Low sugar peanut butter and hummus can be spread on toast to increase its flavor and nutrition. Homemade soups are always great. They taste good, can be power-packed with vegetables that are easy to eat and smell good too. Pasta can be a warm and hearty meal, either with regular tomato (marinara) sauce, or mixed with any number of steamed vegetable. It’s colorful and appetizing.
If you can plan ahead for your loved one’s discharge, you make the transition easy on them and you as the caregiver. Rely on the experts to support you during this time. Care is apt to be more intense and you both deserve the support. Find out more about how you can prepare for discharge in our blog, “How Caregivers Can Help to Prevent Hospital Readmissions.”