Prepare a Happy House — Bringing a Loved One Home
Your mother is coming home from the hospital after recovering from a fall, injury, or surgical procedure, and you expect to be able to help her out as she recovers. And yet you still have to be able to go to work, get the kids to school, and handle your own household responsibilities — all at the same time.
Life transitions are hard for anyone, but they can be especially rough for older people with health issues and their caregivers. Caring for someone after a hospital stay can be a huge task, but one we understand you take on with love. There are hospital discharge plans to follow, changes in mobility or medication, and rehabilitation instructions, all of which can make things physically and emotionally complicated.
There are hospital discharge plans to follow, changes in mobility or medication, and rehabilitation instructions, all of which can make things physically and emotionally complicated.
Here are a few important transition points to keep in mind as you bring your loved one home, or guidance to offer if you are a provider with a family member asking what should be done.
Pre-Plan the Return Home
Start planning the transition home from the first day of admission to the hospital. Ask LOTS of questions — the nurses and hospital/rehab facility staff should be good resources to help you understand which care might be needed. They can help you plan for ongoing home care and discuss your loved one’s physical limitations that might require medical equipment or home changes and modifications.
Home care is a general term that represents a wide range of services from supporting someone recuperating from an injury like a hip fracture, to providing in-home healthcare services to someone with an ongoing chronic condition like Alzheimer’s.
Home care services can allow care recipients to remain at home and possibly have more independence than they did before.
Home care professionals include:
- Registered nurses (RNs) can provide skilled medical care, including giving medications, monitoring vital signs, dressing wounds, and teaching family caregivers how to use complicated equipment at home
- Therapists work with patients to restore or maintain their motor, speech, and cognitive skills
- Home care aides provide personal services such as bathing, dressing, toileting, preparing meals, light cleaning, and transporting patients to medical appointments
Ensure you and your loved one are comfortable with the idea of someone else taking on some of the tasks you might have been doing for them during their hospital stay.
Will you need a nurse to clean and bandage wounds? Will your loved one need help with getting showered, toileting activities, or getting dressed? Are there special devices that will require monitoring by a professional? Defining the tasks that need to be done by the home care worker will help you determine exactly which type of home care is most appropriate for your situation, consider its cost, and determine your budget is for these services.
Some expenses may be covered by insurance or provided by government programs, so review your loved one’s insurance benefits to be sure.
Make any Necessary Modifications to the Home
If your loved one will need to use a walker, wheelchair, or even a simple cane, you may have to make modifications in the home to accommodate the use of these devices. Barrier-free entryways and the elimination of swinging or accordion doors that require a lot of space to open and close can make it easier to maneuver a wheelchair in the home.
In some cases, your loved one can use standard products to accommodate their needs in the home, like bath seats for showering or grab rails for support (both shown above); however, in some cases, there may be a need for major renovations like adding a chair lift or a walk-in bathtub. Your hospital or rehab social worker may recommend hiring a contractor that specializes in aging in place modifications to come into the home and create a plan.
Some important, simple modifications to the home might include:
- Making sure there is bright lighting throughout the home
- Removing any loose or scattered rugs and clutter that could be a tripping hazard
- Organizing closets and other areas so that items are easier to reach
It is important to keep our aging seniors as safe as possible in their homes as they get older or recover from injury.
Invest in a Home Medical Alert System
You’ve often seen the commercials for these, and never really thought your loved one needed one until now. Medical alert systems are a simple yet effective method to ensure that your loved one can communicate with someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if they are in need of assistance but can’t get to the phone. These systems are usually a pendant that can be worn at all times, so they are easily accessible and can allow you peace of mind when your loved one might be home alone.
Planning ahead and preparing for a safe return home can mean the difference between readmission and a full recovery for your loved one.
Many issues factor into why older adults are vulnerable to problems at home after they have been in a medical, hospice, or rehabilitation setting. Thinking ahead about who can help care for your loved one, as well as ways to get them back on their feet, will help you transition home smoothly and result in a safer and more successful recovery.
Cynthia Counts is Vice President of Product Management & Homecare SBU at Graham-Field.
About GF Health Products, Inc.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with more than 300 US-based employees, GF Health Products, Inc. is a major manufacturer of healthcare products for the acute care, extended care, homecare, and primary care markets. Graham-Field product brands include Basic American Medical Products™, Everest & Jennings®, Gendron®, Grafco®, Hausted®, Intensa®, John Bunn®, Labtron®, Lumex® and Lumiscope®. Visit www.grahamfield.com or call 1.770.368.4700.