When Your Loved One Leaves the Hospital
While your loved one was in the hospital, a team of healthcare professionals worked around the clock to provide patient care. Now it is your turn. You may be feeling anxious about caring for your loved one, and concerned about whether or not you are up to the task. Take a deep breath and start here.
Know the Plan
Before your loved one is discharged from the hospital, be sure to speak with the discharge planner about the next steps. You need to be able to answer the following:
- Will your loved one be going to a nursing home for a short or long stay?
- Will he or she be able to come home and receive home healthcare?
- Will there be follow-up doctor visits and/or visits to rehab facilities?
- What kind of transportation will be needed? Is there a special diet that must be followed?
- Will you need to administer medications, change dressings and/or provide other services?
- What kind of help do you need if your loved one is able to recuperate at home?
Educate yourself about your loved one’s condition. Get information from the social worker or discharge planner who worked with you and your loved one. Seek information from your local library or go to reliable online sources like the National Institutes of Health and organizations like the American Heart Association or the Alzheimer’s Association. The more informed you are, the easier it will be to communicate with the healthcare professionals who will be working with you and your loved one.
Learn how to change dressings, safely lift and move the patient and operate any needed medical equipment. The best teachers are the people who took care of your loved one while he or she was hospitalized, so ask them to show you the proper techniques before discharge.
Share your caregiving responsibilities with family and friends. Having frequent family meetings in person, online or over the phone is a good way to keep everyone updated and let them know how they can help, even if they live far away. Knowing there are others you can rely on will help take some of the burden off you if you are the primary caregiver.
Plan ahead for changes that may take place. Will your loved one’s condition worsen over time? Will there need to be physical changes made to ensure home safety? Will your loved one need to move into to a long-term care facility? If so, now is the time to research facilities and visit the ones that seem like a good fit for your loved one. It’s a lot of work, but it’s better to do it while the need is still some time in the future, rather than scramble to find accommodations at the last minute.
Look for a family caregiver support group. It’s a good place to share your experiences and get advice and support from others who are in similar situations. Call the Family Caregiver Association at 1-800-445-8106 to learn about support groups, classes, and other services for caregivers in your area, or visit caregiver.org. While taking care of your loved one, remember to take care of yourself too.