An Elderly Parent transitioning from Hospital to Home
Despite the obvious relief of getting your elderly parent discharged from hospital after an illness or a surgery, it can be quite stressful to transition them back to life at home. The situation becomes more complicated when your parents live alone. With the hospitals focusing on reducing the length of stay, the burden of rehabilitating the patient falls more and more on the family.
People are getting discharged with greater need for support and care at home. Even though you might love your parent and might want to take care of them to the best of your ability, it is becoming difficult for the majority. With demanding careers and taking care of your own home and children, it can be a daunting task to care for your loved one when he/she is recuperating. However, having a clear plan in place for life after discharge will be immensely beneficial to you and your family.
Ideally, a smooth transition should ensure that
• The patient is clinically safe
• There are no risks or threat of getting readmitted to the hospital for the same problem or other complications
• The patient is confident of getting back to normal routine
Here are some simple solutions to achieve these goals:
1. Assess your home environment: Before the discharge do a quick home check and look at it through the eyes of your fragile parent. Make a list of questions that you need to answer before the discharge, for example: Will there be a need for a hospital bed or oxygen supply? What consumables like diapers, gloves, etc. need to be kept in stock?
2. Be part of the discharge planning process: Speak to the physician and the hospital nursing team about your concerns. Understand how you could help and the specific tasks your parents would need assistance for. Get a rough estimate of how long the recuperating period might be.
3. Make the necessary changes at home: If your parent needs a hospital bed or other equipment, you might need to choose a room for them with enough space. Ensure that there is enough lighting, especially the path from the bed to the bathroom. Consider the possibility of installing grab bars in the bathroom. If you plan to involve additional caregivers, plan on a comfortable space to accommodate them.
4. Get support for the health care tasks:This is the actual bulk of care-giving at home. It requires your physical presence and assistance in getting your parent back on his/her feet. Daily tasks like feeding, medication administration, monitoring for complications or infections need to be performed consistently. Evaluate if you can perform these tasks and how much time you can devote to being the primary caregiver. If it is not a responsibility that you can handle, engage a home health care provider. Before choosing a provider, do a research on the providers in your locality, understand their credentials, evaluate the care packages they offer, short list and interview them.
Involve the home health care provider in the care, even before the discharge from the hospital. This helps them in understanding the specific condition of the patient and therefore to draw the care plan that he/she needs. Check the daily tasks that they need to perform, the signs of complications that they need to watch for and provide them with a list of emergency contacts.
Availing support from professional healthcare companies is therefore a valid option, as it allows the elderly patient to recuperate in their known surroundings, while reducing the pressure on you and your family. Home healthcare has shown better results in patient recovery by reducing the recuperation period by an average of 15%.
Dr.Anitha Arockiasmay, Head of Clinical Operations at India Home Health Care, India’s largest home healthcare provider, has experienced the impact of home healthcare on the patient’s recuperation and transition to home. “We have served a number of patients, where they were clinically stable but not fully recovered from the illness. Shortly after discharge to their home under our care, a significant improvement was seen. It was surely a combination of many factors, one being the comfortable and known home surrounding, and another one being the professional care given by the family in support with our care provider.”
This transition is not just about your parent, it is also about you evolving from being a child to a care giver. No doubt, it is a challenging and critical phase in your life. To make it a rewarding and fulfilling experience, understand your options and limitations. Ensure that you have a solid plan in place and execute it efficiently.