After serious surgery or an extended hospital stay, the prospect of coming home is the light at the end of the tunnel. But coming home doesn’t mean the patient is out of the woods – in many instances, hospital care is just the beginning of a recovery. And moving back home from the hospital isn’t just nerve-wracking for the patient and family members helping with their recovery. Caregivers need a treatment game plan to ensure a speedy recovery.
Therapists are often on the front lines of the discharge process, as they are actively involved in providing follow-up information for in-home care. How can you help prepare family members for home care?
- Don’t wait until the last minute. Many patients and family members feel overwhelmed by the transition home, as health care professionals bombard them with materials and information when the patient is wheeled out the hospital door. Start talking about what to expect and how to prepare as early as possible so everyone feels comfortable about the trip home.
- Develop a solid game plan. Give general guidelines and help with planning. Talk about nutritional needs, medication management, scheduling follow-up appointments and what kinds of supplies to keep around the house. Make an emergency contact list with the names and numbers of physicians and other health care providers. And encourage patients and family members to ask questions!
- Discuss in-home accommodations. Did the patient just have knee replacement surgery? If so, the patient won’t be able to climb the stairs to their second-floor bedroom. Make sure family members have made arrangements for this situation, such as locating a hospital bed. Suggest that family members remove items that may cause falls.
- Stress the importance of follow-up care. Don’t just tell patients they need to come to physical therapy – tell them why. The period of time shortly after a hospital stay is important for healing and recovery, and many patients drop the ball, meaning slower recuperation and the potential for serious complications.
- Don’t be afraid to play coach. You know the rules – your patient and their family members don’t.
Finally, never underestimate the value of repetition. Patients and their families need to understand the importance of following physicians’ recommendations and participating in follow-up visits with therapists.