From the moment your senior loved one leaves their hospital room to the time they get settled in back home, advanced planning will help ensure a safe, comfortable, and less stressful transition.
Among the first considerations are clothing and footwear for them to wear home. Loose comfortable slacks and a button front shirt are usually best as they are easier to slip on. Consider sneakers or low slip-on shoes with steady treads to prevent falls. Also be sure to take the weather into consideration and decide if a jacket and/or hat will be necessary.
The Proper Transportation Home
A patient being discharged will likely ride in a wheelchair to the exit and vehicle for the trip home. Make sure to find out how mobile your loved one will be so you can arrange for appropriate transportation:
- Ask the healthcare providers if standing, walking or sitting will be possible and for how long.
- Find out if your family member will be coming home with any medical equipment such as a wheelchair, IV or oxygen system.
- If an individual is mobile enough, you may be able to get him or her home in the car of a family member or friend. However, if there are restrictions you may have to seek alternate private transport services such as a wheelchair van or ambulance. If necessary, the social worker or discharge coordinator can assist you in arranging these services and help to determine if insurance generally will cover the costs.
If your loved one will need prescriptions, make arrangements to have those filled and picked up either in advance or by someone else such as an in-home care companion, so you can take your family member directly home. Likewise, make sure you have restocked the refrigerator and pantry, as well as picked up any special foods or medical supplies before discharge.
Create a Safety Checklist
Even before a loved one returns home, you should take a look around both inside and outside the house to look for any hidden dangers.
Outside, make sure walkways and stairs are free of debris and swept clean. Also check handrails to make sure they are steady and free of chips or splinters and remove any door mats that might cause your senior to trip. Lighting is another consideration so be sure all bulbs are in working order and provide enough illumination.
There are many safety considerations inside the house as well:
- Use this senior safety checklist to help make the return home more secure.
- Get rid of clutter. You may need to clean out the refrigerator if your senior has been hospitalized for more than a few days. Check refrigerators and cupboards to assess if they need food.
Also remember that an older adult may be a bit disoriented when returning home. To make help make things clearer for them, you could install large red and blue buttons over hot and cold water faucet controls to prevent dangerous mistakes. A dark green or brown toilet seat and vinyl tape around the shower will make those fixtures more easily distinguishable as well. To make getting up easier, you may also want to consider installing grab bars or a raised toilet seat. And safety devices, such as lock-in switches on stoves and thermostats, can prevent burns and fires from occurring.
Returning home from the hospital should be a happy time for you and a loved one. By taking preventative steps, you can help to ensure the return home is safe as well. If you don't have time to prepare for your loved one's return home, consider hiring an in-home care companion to assist in the transition.