Leaving the hospital—now what?

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Whether Uncle Joe is heading home after heart surgery, or your mom is leaving a short-term skilled nursing facility to go home, a smooth transition from hospital to home takes a little pre-planning and preparation.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offers a checklist related to the discharge process for nursing staff to make the transition. 1 The checklist includes key topics such as the following:

  1. For starters, it’s important for you to get involved with staff and ask questions before and during the discharge process.
  2. Ask staff to help educate you and your family member about their diagnosis and condition, and next steps of care.
  3. If you’re expected to change wound dressings, work with staff to ensure you are comfortable through the process. 2
  4. Review medications with staff; ask about changes in medications: Starting new medications and/or stopping old medications.
  5. Become familiar with the purpose of the medications (side effects, reactions, dosage, etc.)
  6. Establish a contact person and phone number of the staff person at the hospital or facility in case you have questions at home.

Keep in mind, life at home may look and feel very different from before. Plan ahead because you may need new medical equipment at home: things like a hospital bed, walker, and wheelchair or shower stool. 1 To find out about reimbursement criteria for medical equipment covered by Medicare, click “ What Medicare Covers ” on the Medicare website. Look for coverage that pertains to durable medical equipment.

Reference: 1. IDEAL Discharge Planning Overview, process and Checklist, AHRQ Guide to patient and Family Engagement. 2. https://www.medicare.gov/files/ask-medicare-transition.pdf

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