Plan for Discharge
Transitioning Recovery Care from Hospital to Home
How to plan for a safe recovery at home:
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No one is 100% after a hospital stay. Relying on loved ones or rehab centers for aftercare helps — but it’s not always enough.
Little known fact: about 20% of patients end up back in the hospital within 30 days. Fortunately, with a little planning, you can help your loved one avoid a readmission.
Remember: it’s Ok to ask others to help! You may have many other responsibilities in life. Teamwork works for everyone!
1. Be There for Discharge
During the discharge meeting, take good notes and speak up with questions. You may ask permission to record the discharge conversation on your phone: explain that you don’t want to bother them with a call in case you miss an important detail.
- Ask for a meeting with a discharge planner early in your loved one’s stay, ideally on Day 1. Download the checklists on this page and bring with you.
- On the day of discharge, be sure to stay with your loved one during the entire discharge conversation. This is no time to get the car – a very common practice!
- Discuss the home environment for safety equipment that may be needed.
- Ask when the hospital stay records will be sent to your loved one’s main doctor.
- Confirm follow-up doctor appointments needed (when, with which doctors).
- Cover driving limitations (if any), and any other limits, like exercise.
- Record the medications administered the day of discharge, including the time and dose.
- Ask about signs or symptoms to watch for, when to get medical attention, and if there’s a hospital hotline.
- Find out if skilled care is needed. For example, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, wound care.
- Get specifics on any diet and nutrition needs, including groceries to buy or remove from the home.
- Ask where to rent or buy any needed medical equipment or supplies. Tip: Many communities have lending programs through churches and senior centers.
- Ask if your loved one could benefit from electronic monitoring equipment, which reports info directly to the doctor. Will hospital supply?
- Find out if follow-up tests are needed or if there are prescriptions to fill.
Common Problems & Pitfalls at the time of Discharge
- Discharge instructions are often confusing, incomplete, and shared by hospital staff in a rush.
- Medication instructions can be incorrect, incomplete, or not well understood by the patient or their Care Partners.
- Appointments for follow-up testing or care with the patient’s doctors after discharge can fall through the cracks.
- Coordination for care and medical equipment needed following the hospital stay may be spotty or not provided at all.
- The patient may not be ready to leave (e.g., still medically fragile, the home is unsafe, the person is homeless, there is no one available to help the patient get prescriptions filled or assist with daily living needs).
- Infections picked up in the hospital may not show symptoms at discharge but will develop at home.
- The patient may not have enough help or the right kind of help coordinated to support their recovery.
- The patient’s home may not be safely set up to accommodate medical equipment or physical limitations.
- Social, welfare, and medical services may not be known, coordinated, or available.
- extreme pain
- fast heartbeat
- shortness of breath
- bulging neck veins
- signs of fluid retention
(puffiness/weight gain of 2+ lbs. in 1-2 days)
- fast breathing
- swelling in legs/arms
- body aches
- no appetite
- blood in urine
- oozing/red sores, stitches
- open breaks in skin
- bumps, or rash
2. Organize All Medications
In the hospital, there are about 13 steps involved in making sure a patient gets the correct medication — yet mistakes still occur! Download our Medication Record Spreadsheet to have a clear plan of what to take and when.
If your loved one’s home is in assisted living, memory support, long-term care or rehab, make doubly sure that:
- You complete the Medication Record Spreadsheet
- Share the spreadsheet with everyone involved in their care
- The staff has several copies
- All nursing supervisors are aware of all medications taken the day of discharge and any changes to the medication regimen
- You call to follow up and confirm all details
How patients can overdose the soon after discharge
- Patients are typically given a dose of medication before leaving the hospital.
- The patient may take another dose too soon by mistake if they’re in the habit of taking pills before bed or their residential community administers pills on a schedule.
- The second dose, taken too early, can send them right back to the hospital.
Keep plenty of these forms on hand:
- Download and save to desired file folder.
- Print the spreadsheet using the landscape mode on your printer.
- Use standard printer paper (8.5″ x 11″).
- Print in color or choose black & white.
- Make as many copies as you need.
3. Plan Day-to-Day Responsibilities
Create a plan for everyday tasks.
Recruit family and friends to help so you don’t wear yourself out trying to do it all. As much as possible, use our checklist to match people with responsibilities they are good at and available for.
Potential Problems and Pitfalls after Leaving the Hospital
- Daily living activities can be a challenge.
- Getting proper nutrition is a worry.
- Managing responsibilities the patient may have for others can be challenging and cause anxiety.
- Check in each day (in person or by video call) to monitor for positive signs of recovery or setbacks
- Schedule doctor appointments and follow-up tests
- Follow up on test results
- Arrange special support care and logistics (ex. wound care, home health, physical therapy)
- Facilitate conversations with employer as needed
- Drive to doctor appointments and take notes
- Fill prescriptions
- Find and purchase or rent medical equipment as needed
- Shop for groceries and household essentials
Home Care Tasks:
- Safety-proof the home
- Manage money and pay bills
- Clean the home
- Plan and coordinate meals
- Yard maintenance, seasonal upkeep
- Take out garbage
- Get the mail
- Do laundry
Personal Care Tasks:
- Help with washing hair, showering, bathing, toothbrushing, dressing/undressing
- Help with walking or learning to use walking assists (cane, walker, wheelchair)
- Care for children, a spouse, pets, and other dependents
4. Safety-Proofing the Home
Especially if your recovering loved one is elderly, safety-proofing their home (if you haven’t done so already) is crucial to prevent devastating accidents in the home during or after recovery. Use these safety-proofing lists to make sure you don’t miss anything.
It’s ideal to plan for your loved one’s home adjustments and supplies after a hospital stay early on. Talk to a case manager or discharge planner as soon as you can. They will fill you in on what to anticipate and what items you’ll need for a safe and sound recovery at home.
Most of these items can be ordered from Amazon or Walgreens online. They should arrive promptly enough so that you won’t have to spend precious time running from store to store.
Preventing falls is a top priority. Here’s what to buy:
- Non-slip rubber mat for the tub or shower
- Grab-bars in the shower and next to the toilet (towel bars are not strong or secure enough to handle any weight)
- Shower sponge with long handle
- Shower chair
- Elevated toilet seat
- Hospital bed
- Hoyer lift (helps in/out of bed and chairs)
- Shoehorn with a long handle
- Sock aid to help put on socks
- Dry shampoo
- Reacher with long handle to pick up items from the floor or help with dressing
- Cane, crutches, walker, wheelchair
- Blood pressure monitor
- Pulse oximeter
- Bathroom scale
- Non-skid socks or a good-fitting pair of slippers
- Small blankets for chair, recliner, and sofa sitting
- Extra batteries for the TV remote
- Phone chargers
Safety-Proofing the Home
Try to imagine what it would be like to move around the home with less energy or physical limitations. Look for ways to make everyday life both convenient and safe for your loved one.
- Consider setting up one room to serve most needs, ideally on the main floor close to a bathroom or portable commode
- Equip with a bed, cell phone, TV, remote (with extra batteries), comfy chair, laptop, iPad, chargers, and any other creature comforts closeby
- Remove throw rugs in the house, as they’re a tripping hazard
- Consider an elecronic thermosatat that controls heat and air through an app
- Repair any uneven floors
- Place nightlights in halls, bathrooms, the kitchen, and any other rooms your loved one may use at night
- Remove any loose wires or extension cords where they trip or equipment could become entangled
Safety-Proofing the Bathroom
The bathroom is where most accidents occur. Water, slippery tiles, and hard porcelain surfaces make a perfect storm for disaster. These little spaces need a lot of attention:
- Secure grab bars to the shower/tub wall and next to toilet either horizontally or vertically — not diagonally
- Consider a commode or raising the toilet seat height via an elevated seat
- Install non-slip suction mats or rubber silicone decals in the tub or shower floor to prevent falls.
- Be mindful of water on the floor and wipe it up immediately
- Make sure the towels are in easy reach of the shower or tub
- Make sure the shower curtain slides easily
- Clean up any messy drips from shampoo, soaps, or lotions
- Make sure a good hand soap is in easy reach of the sink faucet
Safety-Proofing the Kitchen
- Put glasses, plates, bowls, silverware and all food items in easy reach so that no tip-toes or bending is required
- Make sure the eating table and chair are sturdy and positioned so they don’t create a hazard
- Make sure entrances and pathways are wide enough to fit a wheelchair or walker if needed
- Keep the fridge and cabinets stocked with foods recommended for recovery and good health
- Remove food and drink items discouraged by doctors