When your parent or loved one is in the hospital, you’re dealing with many different things at once. You’re juggling visits to your loved one, meetings with his or her doctor, and your own life at the same time. Probably the last thing on your mind is your mom or dad’s eventual discharge.
Many times there is very little notice before discharge. You haven’t yet found the time to sit with the doctors and develop a thought-out discharge plan, and you’re left scrambling to make arrangements. The best time to start working on your parent’s discharge plan is at the time of admission. However, that often gets overlooked by new caregivers, and you may find yourself holding your mom or dad’s discharge papers, not sure how to proceed.
What you need to know before discharge:
- Make sure the hospital gives you a discharge plan in writing. It should include the hospital’s recommendations for the most appropriate facility, whether or not the patient requires an ambulance to get there, and the specific care the patient will need after discharge. The plan should also cover all the patient’s medications, any diet restrictions, and any therapies they may need.
- Review the plan face-to-face with a doctor or nurse before you leave the hospital. Clarify anything you’re unclear about, and ask them what symptoms would warrant a call to the doctor. You may need to be assertive and take the time to really understand the discharge instructions. This is your mom or dad’s health in question, and you should not rush out if you don’t understand. One note of caution: be aware of the overwhelming anxiety you may be feeling at the time of discharge, and make sure not to take it out on the hospital staff.
- If your mom or dad can’t ride in a regular car, the hospital will probably arrange transportation for them. Check the arrangements with the hospital’s discharge planner. Some options are covered by insurance and some aren’t. Many hospitals do offer complimentary transportation at discharge. Make sure you know if you will or will not be charged for the ride.
- Many times after a hospitalization, the patient requires more intense care than they were previously receiving. The hospital’s social worker will help you find available beds in nearby facilities, but you may have to advocate for the facility you prefer.
- Make sure to prepare emotionally for discharge day. You’ll have to do a lot of waiting, and your parent might be cranky and tired. You may want to bring your spouse or a friend along for moral support.
What to do after your loved one is discharged:
Try to be extra-available for your parent or loved one in the first few days after discharge. Especially if your mom or dad just moved to a new facility, you want to be with them during this stressful adjustment period. Get to know the nurses and CNAs caring for your parent and start building relationships. Learn the schedule of the facility and communicate with your parent’s caregivers regularly.
With a just a little bit of planning, you can make your parent’s discharge from the hospital a smooth and painless transition!