Today’s health care system is facing a new crisis: how do we care for America’s rapidly growing aging population in the face of increasing costs?
The solution lies in part with providing better care that keeps people out of the hospital and at home longer in greater comfort.
Reducing hospitalizations among the elderly starts with improving care transitions from the hospital to home, which is a process that begins at the moment of discharge. While hospitals are implementing innovative ways and using new technology to support improved care transitions, family caregivers also play an important role.
If your elderly loved one has recently returned home for recovery, here are 7 steps caregivers can take to help prevent an unnecessary readmission or re-hospitalization:
- Talk with the discharge planner – Before you leave the hospital, be sure to sit down with the discharge planner or social worker to understand the expectations for the recovery process, scheduling, and providing care post-discharge. It’s a smart idea to be prepared with a list of questions to ask the discharge planner to guide the conversation.
- Devise your follow-up strategy – Outline all of the follow-up appointments your loved one needs and schedule them as soon as possible. Research shows that patients who see a doctor within 7 days after discharge are significantly less likely to be readmitted. Work with any providers such as home care agencies to ensure your loved one has the necessary care they need throughout the day.
- Do your homework on medications – It is essential to understand your loved one’s medication regimen before returning home. Clear up any questions you have and pick up any new prescriptions that have been prescribed.
- Be aware of risk factors for readmission – Certain risk factors, such as a diagnosis of COPD or heart failure, may place your loved one at greater risk for readmission. Learn these risk factors and make sure you understand the “normal” expectations for recovery.
- Track your loved one’s condition – Small changes in behavior may be difficult to spot day-to-day but can be clues to a potentially adverse event that leads to a readmission. Using a system like eCaring, you can track your loved one’s behavior patterns (such as eating and sleeping), mental state, and clinical vital signs over time. Using real-time monitoring, you can set up customized alerts to know when something goes wrong so you can intervene and prevent a trip to the hospital.
- Clear the home of hazards – Falls can result in broken bones and numerous injuries that may land your loved one back in the hospital. Check the home for fall hazards such as loose rugs. Take care to prepare the home for the upcoming season and make everything is in working order.
- Arrange for someone to stay over – The first few nights after a return from the hospital, arrange for someone to stay with your loved one. This provides and extra set of eyes and ears in the home as well as emotional support for your loved one as they recover.
What are some other ways caregivers can best support the transition from hospital to home to reduce the risk of readmission for a loved one?