Many caregivers are comfortable with the daily tasks associated with taking care of elderly individuals, but there may be times when caregivers are confronted with situations that are unfamiliar to them. This can happen when a patient has been hospitalized and is being readied for discharge.
The discharge process can be a little tricky. Often the patient is eager to get home, or there may be worries about the patient which keep the caregiver from focusing as precisely on the moment at hand as might be best.
But the discharge is very important. It is the time when those taking care of elderly patients will receive instructions and ask questions that will have an impact on the immediate and future care of the individual.
To help ease the discharge process, here are a few questions that should be asked if they have not been covered in the discharge process:
- What exactly is the diagnosis (and what does it mean, if it is a diagnosis that is unfamiliar)?
- What is the recovery expectation, and what kind of things should we be on guard against?
- Are there follow-up tests or appointments that need to be scheduled (and if so, when should they occur)?
- Is there any special equipment that is needed at home? If so, why is it needed, and what do we need to know about it and about how to use it?
- Are there specific changes that need to be made in the home to accommodate the patient?
- Are there any special services (such as physical therapy) that are required?
- Have there been any changes to the patient’s medications (either something new being added or an existing medication that has been discontinued or its use/dosage modified)? If so, what are the reasons for the changes? Are these temporary changes? Are there side effects associated with the medications?
- If new medications have been prescribed, are they covered by the patient’s insurance plan?
- What kind of changes in care should be expected (e.g., help with feeding, assistance in the bathroom, etc.)?
- Who should be contacted if there are questions at home about the proper way to provide care or concerns about possible complications, etc.?
One extra tip for those taking care of elderly patients: make sure that you record all information in a notebook or electronic device; the memory alone is not always reliable.