Leaving the hospital can be both exciting and stressful. Whether it was a long or short hospital stay, there is often some degree of apprehension about the return home. To help reduce this apprehension, here is a checklist for you to use that will hopefully make for a smooth transition back home from the hospital.
- Is the person going home? Or to another destination such as a rehabilitation or long-term care facility?
- How is the person going to be transferred from the hospital? What will make it smoother for the both of you? A friend or family member driving, a taxi or an Uber, or a patient transfer service arranged through the hospital?
- What are the new medications the person will be prescribed? Be sure to clarify the dose of each medication, how often it must be taken, and why.
- What about the old medications the person was taking before hospitalization? Have there been any changes to the doses or timing of the original medications? Have some of them been stopped altogether?
- Be sure to obtain a copy of the new prescriptions to take to the pharmacy.
- Before leaving the hospital, clarify when to start taking the medications at home in case some of them have already been taken that day at the hospital.
- Confirm whether there are any over-the-counter medications the person should avoid.
- Ask about any side effects or reactions to look for and when to seek medical attention.
- Ask about disposal of old medication.
- Does the person require any special equipment at home? Will a hospital bed be needed? Crutches or another mobility aid such as a walker or wheelchair? Does the person require oxygen at home? What about urinary catheter or ostomy supplies?
- Inquire about how to acquire this equipment. Where can it be purchased or rented? Does the person need to be fitted for this equipment? Who arranges this? Can this be arranged immediately so that the person you are caring for has all the necessary equipment the moment they walk in the door or very shortly afterward?
- Does the person need to make adjustments to their diet?
- What should they limit or restrict from their diet?
- What should they eat more of?
- Does the person need to restrict their physical activity or can they resume all of the activities they were doing prior to the hospitalization? For example, can the person drive? Go back to work? What about physical activity and exercising?
Health care services
- Are home support services required for activities such as bathing, feeding, or taking medications? What about virtual nursing or telehome monitoring? Does the person require physiotherapy?
- Inquire about how to set up these services. Does the hospital arrange for this or do you? Who do you call to arrange the service? Can this be arranged before leaving the hospital so that there is little to no time lag for these necessary services?
- Are there any follow-up appointments the person must attend? When and where are these appointments?
- When should the person see their primary care provider for follow-up?
- What are the signs or symptoms to look for that indicate the person needs to go to the emergency department?
Ask the person if they have any questions, worries, or fears about this transition.
- Do they understand the illness, disease, or injury they have?
- What do they feel their needs are? How do they predict these needs changing over time?
- Advocate for the person to ensure that these are addressed by the health care team.
If you or the person you are caring for have any additional questions, be sure to ask.
- As the caregiver, do you need to be shown how to help the person with any medical tasks or activities?
- Raise any concerns, worries, or questions you have with the health care team. You are an equally important team member.
- Ask who you can call if you have additional questions and write down the phone number and the time of day you can call.
Each situation is unique and some of the questions may not apply to you or the person in your care. However, it can be helpful to review this checklist and write down any additional questions or concerns together prior to the person’s discharge home from the hospital. Planning ahead and anticipating future needs can help make the transition from the hospital to home a smooth one. As the caregiver, you are very close to the situation, and while you don’t have a crystal ball, you are the next best thing!