Your loved one is ready for discharge–but are you?

Are you ready for your loved one to come home from the hospital or rehab facility?

Here are seven things to consider before the big day.

Equipment: Will you need special medical equipment, called DME (durable medical equipment) like a hospital bed, oxygen, a commode, toilet seat riser and grab bars, a bath chair, bathroom handrails, a hand-held shower attachment, transfer aids, and mobility aids like a quad cane, or a walker? Ask the nurses who give the daily care what you will need at home and have them arrange it before the homecoming. Make sure it is all ready to go and in place on the discharge day. Oxygen canisters can be kept outdoors even in the hottest/coldest climates, but the bulky oxygen generator has to be plugged in somewhere inside the house.

Routines: what changes to the daily schedule will be needed to accommodate rehabilitation or comfort care? If you don’t already have one, get a large wall calendar where you can keep track of medical appointments whether coming to you or going to them. You should receive a list of all medications and times at discharge. Sometimes there are so many things at different times during the day and night that it will be easier if you make a chart. Then you can check off when pills, inhalers, and treatments are taken. Will you need to transform the living room into a bedroom for a short time?

Home Health nurses and aides: Be sure to talk with your doctor or nurse practitioner about ordering home health care. Physical therapy is often ordered for a short time, as well. In most cases, there will be at least one visit with a registered nurse to help you get things set up. He or she can also be a resource for any and all questions. The nurse can help develop that medication chart if you are confused about it, too. Also, a home health aide may be available to help with showering or bed baths. These decisions are dictated by Medicare/Medicaid and private insurance regulations, so each situation is unique.

Household chores: Finding the time and energy to house clean and take care of the yard or do snow removal will be much more difficult while you are a full-time caregiver. Consider hiring help either from one of the many home care agencies like Visiting Angels, Seniors At Home or Safe At Home that provide light housekeeping and personal care. Craigslist can also be a source for help, but don’t forget to ask friends and neighbors.

Safety: You may need to remove throw rugs, fasten down area rugs, install handrails on stairs, and generally remove clutter. Look carefully at anything that would interfere with a mobility aid like a walker or cane. If there will be oxygen, then a sign needs to be fastened to the front door warning there is no smoking in this house. This means no candles, either. Doorways may need to be widened if a wheelchair will be needed long-term.

Extra assistance: Someone who can pick up a prescription or get a few things at the grocery store for you will be invaluable. If you don’t have a support network close at hand, look into home delivery options.

Family Medical Leave/state programs: Medical leave is an option for people with full-time jobs that ensure the position will remain open while you take time out to care for a loved one. Talk with your human resources manager about eligibility. Some states have programs that will pay caregivers and provide funds to modify the home to accommodate medical needs. Call your county Aging, Disability Resource Center (ADRC) for information and help if your loved one is elderly or disabled.

Professional care managers are available in larger cities. For a fee, they will help with whatever is needed. Some of the areas where a care manager can assist are helping you plan and get to doctor’s appointments, helping navigate insurance and healthcare decisions, and communicating with your family and medical team. They can arrange for and schedule additional paid in-home help and set up a simplified medication regimen. Find them through a hospital or rehab facility, ADRC or use a search engine to “find care managers near me”.

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