While adults aged 65 and older make up only 15–20 percent of the U.S. population, they account for close to 40 percent of hospital admissions. Older adults are also at high risk for being readmitted to the hospital. According to Medicare statistics, almost one fifth of seniors will be re-hospitalized within 30 days of being discharged.

Making a smooth transition from the hospital to home can help an older adult avoid being re-hospitalized. In most cases, that means being organized, asking the right questions, and knowing what symptoms might indicate a problem.

Preparing for a Senior’s Hospital Discharge

When an older loved one is hospitalized, families are often overwhelmed with information and questions. If the hospital stay is unplanned, it can be even more overwhelming. One suggestion to help manage information overload is to keep a notebook at the senior’s bedside.

As you and other family members think of questions or concerns, write them down in the notebook. Then, whoever is with the senior when the physician makes rounds can use the notebook to ask questions and document the answers. This helps everyone stay on the same page with regard to the senior’s condition and recovery.

Before you leave the hospital, it’s important to understand the following:

  • Medication management: Make sure the nurse or discharge planner coordinating your loved one’s discharge provides you with an updated list of prescriptions and over-the-counter medications your family member will need to take. Review the list with the discharge planner to make certain you understand how much of each medication your loved one needs and how often to administer it. Also be sure to clarify if the prescriptions have been called into the pharmacy or if you will need to drop a copy off.
  • Follow-up appointments: Obtain a written list of any appointments scheduled for your loved one and a list of those you will need to make for them. These may include appointments with their primary care physician, any specialists involved during their hospital stay, outpatient therapy services, and home health agencies. Ask for the contact information of any healthcare providers that are newly involved with your elder family member’s care.
  • Medical equipment and supplies: Another important part of a successful discharge is having the necessary equipment and supplies on hand at home. The discharge planner will likely help you make these arrangements before your loved one’s discharge. Depending on the senior’s insurance company, some equipment might not be available for delivery until the older adult is officially discharged.
  • Know what to expect: Talk with the physicians involved in your loved one’s recovery about any warning signs that could indicate there may be a problem. This is important because it can give the doctor an opportunity to intervene early and prevent the senior from being readmitted to the hospital. Also make sure you understand what to expect with regards to the pace of your loved one’s recovery. It can help you set realistic expectations and plan accordingly.

Finally, know that there are additional options to consider if your loved one isn’t quite ready to return home. If the senior meets the requirements, transitioning to a skilled nursing center is one. A short-term respite stay at a Sunrise Senior Living community is another. Both give an older adult a little extra time to recuperate and recover before heading back home.


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