The readmission rates to hospitals for elderly people are about one in five, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study. The study focused on people over age 65 and consider it a readmission if the person was checked back into the hospital within 30 days of leaving.
While there is motivation on the side of hospitals and government, entities that literally pay the price for these readmissions because of Medicare costs, to decrease readmission, individuals and their families are also better off without a return trip to the hospital. To be sure, there are times when a return to the hospital can be lifesaving and necessary, but in many instances it can be avoided.
Help after a hospital discharge can be from a capable and available family member, friend, neighbor, or a professional in-home caregiver. Care needs are usually evolving—less care is needed as healing continues, for example—so keep that in mind when planning for support. It might benefit everyone to have a mix of helpers, whether that is more than one family member or family plus professional care.
The transition home includes follow ups such a medication and doctor visits. Consider these tips:
Start by bringing a caregiver to the discharge appointment. The lists of instructions can be overwhelming and little—but important!—details can easily be overlooked. For example, there might be certain times of day to eat meals when taking a new medication or specific foods to avoid with a medication. Or, there might be a need for medication reconciliation to make sure different doctors haven’t prescribed conflicting medicines.
Schedule follow-up appointments before leaving the hospital and with your caregiver there so you know that you have a ride to and from these necessary medical checkups. This benefits all parties involved.
Find out if you need someone with you 24 hours a day following a discharge. This is likely temporary but so very critical if there is a midnight trip to the bathroom, for example. Again, so you don’t wear out your caregiver (no one should be awake for 24 hours), create a care team to be your support.
Good nutrition and hydration are key to healing after a hospital stay. Once a health care provider has outlined expectations and even rules about diet, engage your caregiver to do some grocery shopping and meal preparation so you can stay on track.
The goal should be living as independently as possible, even if that requires some baby steps with help to get there first. Transitioning home after a hospital stay is a big deal and should be treated as such to avoid another one.