Jan 19, 2017

Hospital Discharge – What To Do Next

Planning for discharge from the hospital can often cause additional stress for patients and their carers, particularly if home is not the first option suggested by the medical team.

Ensuring discharge planning begins early during the patient’s hospital stay is not only in the best interest of the hospital but for the elderly patient too. The longer you are admitted in a hospital, the greater chance you have of developing hospital acquired infections and general decondition. Knowing your options for discharge and involving yourself in the discharge plan where possible will hopefully allow you and your loved ones to feel in control of your own care.

What Is Discharge Planning?

If it is your first time in hospital then the concept of discharge planning maybe unfamiliar to you, however the main purpose for taking a coordinated approach to leaving the hospital, as a patient, is to ensure a smooth transition from home to the next destination (whatever that may be). Most hospitals have a dedicated social worker or case manager that will support them and all the options available to them.

Doctors are the ones responsible for signing discharge paperwork from a medical perspective, and whilst the patient maybe medically ready for discharge it doesn’t always mean other important factors are in place. Such factor may include having a safe home environment with adequate equipment (such as handrails, or toilet seat) or that they have sufficient supports at home to care for them. Discharge Planner/Social Workers and other allied health teams often work with the doctor to arrange the most suitable plan for home.

The discharge planner is often the key person to ensuring all care is coordinated thoroughly based on what the patient and family have requested.

Generally the Discharge Planner will cover the following things:

  • Discussion with patient and their next of kin to work out preference for discharge
  • Depending on the agreed choice for discharge then the planner with arrange the appropriate referrals to support organisations
  • Coordinate follow-up for tests and appointments
  • This will allow you to explore the options and ask all of the necessary questions

What Are Your Options?

Various options exist once someone has been discharged from the hospital. They may not be ready to take care of themselves.
The main options will be discussed and offered based on the individual patient’s needs. Options that are available post discharge are:

  • Return home with or without additional services
  • Rehabilitation for reconditioning
  • Respite in an aged care facility
  • Transitional care program (this is a government funded program)
  • Permanent aged care facility

The choice over which option is the most suitable will depend on the the patients overall physical capabilities to manage safely.

Questions To Ask For Making A Plan

  • Whilst being involved with the discharge plan, there are several questions that you will want to ask. This will make it easier to determine where a patient is going to go, and how they are going to receive the care that they need.
  • What care will I need after discharge?
  • Where does the patient want to be?
  • What is the budget available for caring for the patient?
  • Can family assist in providing the care?
  • Is care required around the clock?

Ensuring the patient is involved with the preference for discharge where possible is important. Just because they are frail or older doesn’t mean that can’t contribute and can’t voice their opinion and make them feel as though they have choice in the matter.

Whilst being discharged home is nearly always the preferred option sometimes this is not possible.Another aspect of this is whether the family will be able to assist. Some have the desire to be a caregiver, and have the time to provide it. Others may require bringing in private carers in order to ensure that the patient is receiving the necessary assistance, whether it is with bathing, taking medications, or anything else. This can provide the necessary assistance when family members need a break. This is particularly important if care is required around the clock because it can take its toll on family members.

Asking questions about the post discharge therapy required, symptoms to look for, who to call in emergencies, and what kind of medical equipment is needed will be an important component as well. This will allow you to be prepared, particularly if you plan on bringing the patient into your home to care for them.

The more thorough your plan is, the better it will be for the person who has just spent time in the hospital.

Learn more about discharge planning by contacting Aged Care Report Card for details today.

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