Many people get as little as 24 hours notice before being discharged from the hospital. This can cause some consternation, especially when the patient has been in the hospital for a while. You have to go to work, your son has a dentist appointment that can't be missed, no one has been in Grandpa's house since he went into the hospital, etc. It often means no family member can be available to assist with transfer from hospital to home and to stay with their loved one at home while they recover.
Hospital staff will start organizing for patient discharge whether the patient and family members are ready or not. Family members who receive a call that their loved one will be discharged are faced with a small window of time to make all the arrangements. They may not know what is needed to take care of the loved one at home. There are lots of moving pieces and frequently little guidance from overworked hospital staff.
Here are some tips to help you manage the hospital discharge process:
- Get an Advocate: Connecting with the social worker in the hospital ward as early as possible gives you an advocate and someone who can help you with the logistics of discharge. Just don’t wait till the last minute to contact them.
- Request a discharge planning meeting: The social worker can set up a meeting with the hospital’s discharge planner where you can discuss services you may qualify for from the CCAC, and also what will be required of family members after discharge.
- Arrange CCAC support: Your loved one may be able to receive personal support services after discharge. Talk with your CCAC to find out what you qualify for. Do this long before you receive notice of discharge so that you are ready when the time comes.
- Get discharge instructions and recommendations directly from the doctor: If you have little or no healthcare experience and you are in charge of your loved one’s recovery at home, make sure you speak directly to the doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who have worked with your loved one in the hospital. They can give you specific instructions for a faster recovery.
- Create a care plan: Find out what prescription medications, exercises or accommodations will be needed and make a plan for ensuring they are taken on schedule. If your loved one has physiotherapy and doctors’ appointments, figure out who will accompany them.
- Prepare the home: Make sure that the home your loved one is going to is ready for a patient with possibly reduced mobility and/or cognitive function. If you need help in this area, you can download a free copy of our Home Safety Tips.
- Get transit assistance: Many times Ontario hospitals will discharge a patient with disabilities that mean they are unable to get into and out of an ordinary vehicle. In many cases the CCAC may be able to arrange for non-emergency ambulance transportation, but only if they can be convinced it is necessary.
- Get family support and counseling: Sometimes the patient isn’t the only one who needs help. Having a loved one in the hospital is stressful enough; having to manage their care for a long time afterwards, and sometimes dealing with new and permanent disabilities can increase the emotional upheaval. Make sure you get the support you need so that you can be your best to take care of your loved one.
- Ensure support services at home are adequate: Many seniors leave the hospital with impaired or no mobility and reduced cognitive function. Once your loved one is home, you may not be available 24/7 to provide the support they need. Seniors often recover more slowly and support services may be needed for months after discharge, and sometimes permanently. Meals on Wheels can provide a daily meal, but this may or may not be enough to ensure the proper nutrition for the best recovery. Making and freezing individual meals ahead of time can help provide nutrition as well, but only if they are able to get into the kitchen and operate the oven or microwave.
If your CCAC does not authorize adequate care, consider hiring a personal support worker privately. Qualicare Toronto offers nurse-managed care with a PSW assigned to your loved one, rather than a revolving door of different PSWs and changing schedules every day.