Having a loved one in the hospital can be very stressful, and repeat hospital stays can make your caregiving experience seem like an emotional rollercoaster. Bringing your loved one home is a relief, but it can cause a lot of worry. You may wonder how you will provide the same quality of care given by doctors and nurses. What will you do in case of an emergency? When do you call medical professionals? What will all of this cost?
Your concerns are shared by many hospitals across the country. Medicare recently started penalizing hospitals with high readmission rates, so many healthcare professionals are concerned about keeping patients hospitalized until they are well enough to go home as well as ensuring high quality care in the home.
So what can you do to keep your loved one at home and ensure their well being? Here are seven actions that can make the difference between continuing recovery at home and returning to the hospital.
Hospital discharge papers seem to come with a stack of prescriptions. If taken as directed, these medications will most likely aid health and recovery. However, coming home from the hospital often includes decreased mobility. Sometimes the medications themselves cause people to become disoriented. These and other side effects contribute to over and under dosing of medication. You can be the scheduler, organizer and reminder of medications, which greatly reduces the risk of incorrect dosing.
Laying in a hospital bed can weaken limbs, which leads to instability when walking. While arm and leg strength can be rebuilt, many people try to walk around the house before they are ready to do so, which leads to them falling. Falls lead to broken bones and other complex conditions which require hospitalization. Being there to support your loved one when they are walking, getting up and sitting down will prevent them from falling. Better yet, installing grab bars in bathrooms and hallways as well as ramps in the place of steps will also help. By taking these precautions, falls will most likely happen less often and be less severe.
Fix Healthy Food
Preparing healthy meals gives your loved one the nutrition they need to recover. For seniors, high protein meals will encourage muscle growth and strength. Low sodium and low fat foods are also good. Fill up on fruits and vegetables, which are loaded with micro nutrients like vitamins and minerals. If your loved one does not have an appetite, try to fix their favorite foods to encourage them to eat.
Keep a Care Journal
Keeping a record of your loved one’s meals, medications, and physical and emotional status is a great way to stay on top of their overall well-being. With the many things going on in your life, having a journal for reference lets you keep track of progress and plan for the future. Also, the more you can tell a nurse practitioner or a medical professional about your loved one’s health, the better care they will be able to suggest or provide. Keeping a care log is an activity we highly encourage our caregivers to do in order to report back to families and coordinate home care.
Stay on Top of Appointments
Follow-up appointments with doctors, wound dressings, and physical therapy can all be part of the post-hospital regimen. Be sure to provide transportation to appointments outside the home and confirm that other professionals will be coming to visit.
Coordinate Social Activities
In the hospital, you and your family member probably talked to many people: nurses, doctors, interns, other patients, other caregivers, therapists, and specialists. Social interaction of any kind keeps minds sharp and can contribute to better moods. After coming home, there are usually fewer people to talk to. If other family members do not live close by, invite friends and neighbors to visit your loved one. Take advantage of online communication like Skype to help your loved one keep in touch with their favorite people living far away.
When in Doubt, Call a Doctor
When it comes to your loved one’s well-being, taking preventative action is much better than risking another heart attack, stroke, fall, or other emergency. If you are concerned, call a doctor or a nurse practitioner for advice and guidance. Be sure to refer to your care journal.
SYNERGY HomeCare is partnering with many hospitals to become part of their discharge and care continuity programs. We know that caregiving involves many people, and we are here to help you, your loved one and medical professionals. Our caregivers can provide medication reminders, fall prevention, safety suggestions, healthy meals, and care logs to better assist you and your loved one with life after the hospital.