Seniors who have spent time in the hospital, whether due to an injury after a fall or a planned surgery, can have trouble making the hospital to home transition, especially if they live alone. Issues that arise can range from navigating a home that is not ideal for recovery (lots of stairs, for instance) to mismanagement of prescription pills.
When a hospital releases a senior from its care without providing them with the proper resources to recover fully, that senior has a much higher rate of ending up back in the hospital, creating a vicious cycle. USA Today examined some of the current gaps that exist in care during the transition from the hospital to your home and their findings have a lot to say about the state of transitional care.
The Gaps In Hospital to Home Transition
“There are gaps in care, there are gaps in communication, there are gaps in adequate preparation for patients and families,” Mary Naylor, a gerontology professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing told USA Today.
Often times, these gaps occur because the senior does not have access to the medication, transportation, food or medical equipment they need to fully recover. Many seniors also do not have family caregivers who are able to assist them with daily tasks as part of their transitional care. And even though home health care is an option, it’s not always an affordable solution and so they opt out of having in-home assistance altogether.
Although many hospitals do their best to try and educate patients about what they need for their transitional care, having support from a relative or friend is essential to a successful hospital to home transition. Medical staffers often don’t have the time to connect with their senior patients in order to ensure that they understand the information they are being sent home with and there is little to no communication with the patient’s primary doctor, leaving much to get lost in translation once they are discharged from the hospital.
A Checklist to Ease Your Transition Home
The article also found that “the federal government has estimated that nearly 20 percent of Medicare patients return to the hospital within 30 days, costing more than $26 billion annually.” While they are working to put more fail-safes in place to reduce the rate of readmissions for seniors, there are no tried-and-true programs in place as of now to help seniors thrive after a hospital stay.
Should you ever find yourself in the hospital, here is a checklist to help guide you through the process of being discharged and give you a better chance of a full recovery:
- Ask About Equipment And Supplies Before Leaving The Hospital. Be sure to ask the doctors, nurses, social workers or occupational therapists about what kind of equipment you might need for your recovery once you get home. Whether that’s a hospital bed, a shower chair, a commode or oxygen--be sure to have them write down what you’ll need, along with information about who you can call to arrange for delivery of said items.
- Find Out What Is Covered By Insurance. With medical and health care expenses through the roof these days, it’s important for you to ask about the cost of the items they are recommending for you beforehand. If anything you need will not be covered by insurance, ask the medical professionals working with you if there are grants you can apply for or donation programs that you can participate in.
- Better Medication Management. Get your meds organized! When you have so many different pills to take, it can become difficult to remember which ones have certain side effects, which you should take with food, and how often you should be taking them. Be sure to ask for written instructions about your medication regimen before leaving the hospital and keep the instructions out in the open once you get home (on the refridgerator door, for instance).
- Affordable Care, Day and Night. The best way to ensure that you remain safe at home after a stay in the hospital is to invest in a Medical Guardian medical alert system. Medical Guardian’s monitoring center provides round-the-clock care to ensure your safety when you need it, day or night. Even if you have a loved one or neighbor who is able to look in on you regularly, having a Medical Guardian on hand will provide you with a lifeline should you need it when you are alone.
- Use More Safety Precautions At Home. There are many hidden dangers lurking at home that can become more pronounced when you are recovering after a hospital stay. Don’t take any risks when it comes to your transitional care. Take extra precautions at home to ensure your safety and avoid unnecessary accidents and falls.
Of course, the best way to reduce your risk of being readmitted to the hospital is to have someone at home to help you. Home health care is an important component to recovery when you live independently, so don’t be shy about asking for help if you need it.