Professional Caregivers Ease Hospital-to-Home Transitions

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Hospital stays, whether short term or long term, can cause stress and anxiety for patients and caregivers alike. While the entire family is eager for a loved one to return home, recover, and resume their normal routines, many don't anticipate the difficulties that can come with the transition back into the home setting. The complications that can arise from the change in environment are multifaceted, and contribute to what is known as the "revolving door" of hospital readmissions.

One in five senior patients are back in the hospital within 30 days of leaving. Many readmissions could be avoided with the addition of proper patient and caregiver education, a better transition process and proper post-discharge care. Hospitals, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are working diligently to reduce rehospitalization rates, but seniors and their caregivers can take steps on their own to reduce the risk as well. In-home care can play an important supporting role in transitions between care settings.

Communicate with the Care Team

Clear communication between hospital nurses, primary care doctors and home caregivers is crucial for ensuring proper treatments both in the hospital and once a senior has been discharged.

It is very important to ask specific questions and request explanations of terms and concepts you are unfamiliar with to fully understand all illnesses and treatments. Involving a professional caregiver early on can provide an added layer of knowledge and experience. Professional caregivers can be invaluable when it comes to learning about a client’s health issues, ensuring that the prescribed course of treatment is followed, and determining what services and assistance will be necessary.

Keep in mind the importance of the discharge process. While many patients are understandably eager to leave the hospital and be home, being in too much of a rush can increase the risk of missing important points and result in fragmented instructions for post-acute care.

Hiring Home Care

Home care agencies can help fill the gap between hospital and home for either short- or long-term periods, depending on the family's specific needs. There may be some initial anxiety about hiring someone to help care for a loved one after a stay in the hospital, but an extra, experienced set of hands can lessen the risk of a return visit. Depending on the level of care required, skilled home health care may be ordered upon discharge. If it is not, unskilled personal care services can still provide valuable support for the whole family.

Read: The Difference Between Home Health Care and Non-Medical Home Care Services

Once you have determined the kind of care your loved one requires, a thorough selection and interview process will help in locating a home care company and caregiver that you and your loved one feel comfortable with. Look for someone with a history of handling patients with the same or similar conditions as your loved one. All of these measures help to ensure your loved one's safety and well-being.

Read: How to Select a Home Care Company

The Benefits of Professional Care at Home

Each patient has specific needs following a surgery or hospital stay, but in-home care offers a number of core services that can facilitate the recovery process, improve their quality of life, and ensure compliance with discharge instructions. This added support also alleviates pressure on family caregivers.

Medications are often changed or added to a senior’s regimen following a hospital stay, and a professional caregiver can make sure these modifications are applied and adhered to once they return home. The same goes for orders to remain in bed, get up and walk around every so often, or perform therapeutic exercises. A home care provider will incorporate all of these directives into a personalized plan of care, which can be followed by both the caregiver and the patient’s family members.

Other benefits can include light housekeeping to ensure a loved one is recovering in a clean and comfortable environment, meal preparation services to help them get the nutrition they need to heal quickly, and safe transportation to follow-up doctor’s appointments. Added peace of mind is another undeniable perk for families.

Creating a smooth transition from hospital to home requires multiple precautions and steps. Hiring an experienced aide can help prevent complications as well as establish a valuable relationship that can come in handy down the road, should your loved one’s care needs increase.

Renata Gelman, RN, B.S.N., is assistant director of clinical services at Partners in Care, an affiliate of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY). In this role, she coordinates patient care and manages a multi-disciplinary team of field nursing and home health care professionals in the clinical area of a VNSNY’s private care division.

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