Going home after a hospital stay
AFTER a hospital stay for a major health event, most families look forward to going home, hoping to return to their usual life. This is not always possible. In some situations, the health event may leave long-term effects which require additional nursing care at home and further hospital check-ups.
Therefore, before your loved one leaves the hospital, you will need to ensure that the following important points are addressed:
1. The diagnosis
Being informed regarding the diagnosis is the right of the patient and is extremely important. This will help you understand the cause, expected recovery period, short and long-term effects to watch out for, as well as the long-term treatment plan.
Knowledge of the diagnosis or condition that led to this admission will also facilitate future consultations with various healthcare professionals. Most hospitals will provide a discharge summary which will state the diagnosis, medications and treatment plans.
During a hospital stay, the medications may have been changed or stopped for various medical reasons. Check through the medications given at the hospital and familiarise yourself with their name, purpose, dosage and timing. Bring leftover medications from home and clarify with the treating team whether any of these medications should be stopped.
Also, clarify where to get further supply of these medications. Which clinic will be responsible for adjusting these medications next? Will the supply given to you adequately to cover the duration till the next appointment? Where can you get your prescriptions refilled?
3. Appointments at various clinics or rehabilitation centres
After discharge, your loved one may still require multiple hospital follow-up appointments at various specialist clinics as well as with other healthcare or rehabilitation professionals. Ideally, hospitals should provide a one-stop centre where all your appointments can be co-ordinated to a single day, especially where the patient may have difficulty moving about. Unfortunately, it is often not feasible in many centres.
Countercheck your appointments with the nurse upon discharge. Ensure that the details of these appointments have been clearly written down for you, such as the date, time and location. It is also good to know the purpose of each appointment.
You may be given referral letters which you need to take with you to the respective counters to obtain the appointment dates yourself. If the appointment date is not immediately given, ensure that you have a telephone number to contact if you do not receive a notification regarding the appointment date within two weeks. Take note whether there are any laboratory tests that need to be taken prior to the appointment. Mark down the dates in your calendar so that you will not forget them!
4. Additional nursing needs
A designated caregiver may be required if your loved one is dependent for basic activities of daily living. The caregiver should receive some training or instructions on how to perform basic home healthcare such as assisting the patient to transfer from the bed to a wheelchair, changing adult diapers, turning the patient to prevent bedsores and giving milk via a feeding tube.
Ill patients may require additional equipment, such as walking aids, hospital beds, ripple mattresses; or nursing procedures such as wound dressings or tube changes. If you need additional nursing support or medical equipment, ask the healthcare team for contacts or locations where you can obtain them. You may also countercheck whether you can claim the costs of such equipment or services from your insurance or obtain welfare aid to purchase them if necessary.
These four important pointers will help minimise common issues that may affect your loved one’s safety and recovery at home. Last but not least, communicate with the healthcare team to clarify any doubts. Your partnership with the healthcare team is essential to ensure the best for your loved one’s health.
Dr Tan Chai Eng is a family medicine specialist and lecturer at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre’s Family Medicine Department.