Hospital Discharge Planning: 20 Tips

An unexpected visit to the hospital can be very disrupting. Even recuperating from a planned procedure can be more difficult that you expected. There are pro’s and con’s to keeping your hospital stay short (Excel-Medical, 2022). However, when there is less time for discharge planning, family preparation, and home safety set up, problems may arise. Bringing a parent or grandparent home after being in the hospital is already stressful. Unfortunately, even a short visit in the hospital can equal incredible loss of strength and ability to care for yourself safely. Moving back home after a quick hospital discharge for a senior can present a variety of safety concerns. Over the years and even now, I regularly experience seniors returning home without adequate education and planning. Unfortunately, many of them end up back in the hospital. However, if you take the time to learn and prepare, you can have a much greater chance for a smooth and safe transition. With that in mind, here are 20 ideas from a seasoned (or old:)) physical therapist, to help your family transition back home take place with less stress and more safety:

While I am a physical therapist, I am not your personal therapist. This blog and post is for general educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice. You should follow your personal health team’s specific instructions. Please see the medical disclaimer.

Gather a folder of information for a safe hospital discharge before you leave the hospital:

  1. First of all, make sure you understand and get a copy of written discharge instructions from the hospital. As well, when you get home, keep all of your paper work in a folder out on the kitchen counter for easy access.
  2. Likewise, it is important to get an updated clear medication list. In addition, make sure to fill any new prescriptions so that you don’t miss or mess up your medication routine.
  3. Read through the discharge instructions and see if there is any supply or equipment that should be purchased, and make a plan to get the items (wound care supplies, cane, etc).
  4. Also, make a list of needed phone numbers (physicians, family, neighbors, medical supply company). Keep identification and health information handy for any additional purchases or calls that might need to be made.
  5. If you are interested in senior focused organizational health handouts and trackers for medication list, emergency numbers, vitals, etc. check out Creative Home Therapy Packets.

Prepare your home setting for a safe hospital discharge before you leave the hospital:

  1. Make sure the car you will leave in is easy to get in and out of. You may want to move the passenger seat back to make more leg room. Accordingly, make sure there is room for a wheelchair, walker or any equipment you might need to bring home.
  2. Review the pathway from the car to the front door for safety. If there is a step or curb (especially if it is without a rail), you may need supervision to get in and out. If you will have a long walk from the car into the home you may want to have a friend place a sturdy chair along the path for a short rest break.
  3. Review the path from the doorway to the main area you will sit during the day. Make sure there is a clear pathway to get to and from. Ensure any living area rugs are taped down or removed, for greatest safety.
  4. It is best to sit during the day in an open area with easy access to the bathroom. Also, it is important to have access to a lamp/ light and a tray for eating and holding necessary supplies (water bottle, cell phone, remote, snack). Importantly, don’t allow a gathering of papers and blankets around the foot of the chair as that would be a huge fall hazard.
  5. Assess the path from the chair where you will sit, to and from the bathroom and kitchen. Make sure the pathway, and the bathroom/kitchen floor are all clear of clutter, rugs, or power cords.
  6. If you must use stairs- or even one step- please allow someone to stay close and help you! Even if there are handrails, you may be at risk of falling. You could have difficulty with lack of strength (typically going up), or it could challenge your balance (typically going down). Check with your discharge team at the hospital if they have any concerns or recommendations regarding stairs.

Follow your instructions for a safe hospital discharge when you get home:

  1. Keep your folder with hospital discharge information handy. Subsequently, review your hospital instructions for follow up home care on a regular basis. Make sure to calendar any followup appointments right away.
  2. Keep daily items for the bathroom and kitchen out on the counter for the first week to limit reaching up and or bending down, as they increase fall risk. Accordingly, you may want to keep a few days worth of clean clothing out in an easy access area as well.
  3. Eat food that aligns with your dietary or post hospital requirements. Too much salt or sugar could lead to health issues (CHF/heart disease and diabetes). If people offer to bring food, be specific about what you might need, or need to avoid.
  4. Have quiet time or place to rest if needed. If you are overwhelmed with visitors, tell people. However, although you don’t want to be overwhelmed with too many visits and phone calls, do allow a few people to visit with you and check on you.:)
  5. Keep hydrated and follow any specific instructions from you health care team about drinking water. Likewise, remember to get up, and use the bathroom every few hours. That could be a good time to take a short walk to prevent stiffness.
  6. Stay on schedule with meals, meds, sleep, and self care as much as possible.

For a safe hospital discharge to home, use appropriate equipment.

  1. If you borrow equipment from friends, please ensure that it works properly and is in good condition: check brakes, cane tips, ensure latches are in place and secure, etc.
  2. Keep your walker, cane, any recommended safety equipment close by and make sure you use it.
  3. The main place you will sit in the home is an important choice. A firm chair or sturdy recliner with 2 armrests is most supportive and easiest to get up out of. If it is too low or gushy, that will make it difficult to stand and could increase risk of falling. Of course, follow any specific instructions from you health care team.
  4. Assess the bathroom for safety. Make sure any device needed will fit through the doorway, and that the toilet is not too low. Frequently people to add bars for getting up and down off toilet or for safety in shower. If in doubt, ask at the hospital to see an Occupational Therapist. They can tell you the best place and type of equipment for your needs. Or if you have home health care when you get home, ask for an Occupational Therapist evaluation for bathroom safety.

If you want to learn more about home equipment to improve safety, check out this post: Safety Equipment Recommendations

Step up your evaluations and patient education with senior focused forms also at ETSY.COM!

You may also like these posts:

10 Tips to be an Organized Caregiver

Tips for Preventing Falls

Hope for a safe home transition!

I would love to hear what you have done to improved safety with transitioning home from the hospital. Subscribe to the blog for occasional emails, printable freebies and senior focused health tips!

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