Why Preparing For A Hospital Discharge Is Key To Ongoing Recovery

Sure, it’s a reason to celebrate when you get the news that you’re being discharged from the hospital. But, there are important steps seniors should take if they want to stay out and get better. A recent Medicare survey shows that 18% of patients over the age of 65 discharged from a hospital are readmitted within the next 30 days. 

Preparing for a successful hospital discharge can reduce the possibility of this, and much of it can happen before even leaving the hospital. Here’s what you need to know.

What a Discharge Means

We tend to think of this as an end state, but really, it’s more of a continuation. When you’re discharged from the hospital, it simply means that your doctor has determined that you’ve recovered enough to no longer need hospital-level care. It does not mean that you are fully recovered.

In many cases—especially with older adults—it means you may still need extra or specialized care. You may need this for weeks or even months to come.

Participating in the Hospital Discharge

Your physician and a hospital discharge nurse determine when you can leave the hospital. It’s not an accusation, but rather an observation. These professionals are extremely busy. It’s not that they are unwilling to spend enough time with you to make sure you understand everything you need to know about post-hospital recovery. They often assume that you are aware of what’s necessary.

This is why it’s important for both caretakers and senior patients themselves to be advocates in the process. Make sure you have all the necessary information you need—and that all of your concerns have been answered—before you leave the hospital.

To help you with this Medicare has created an extremely helpful hospital discharge checklist. Download it here. This checklist is an important tool because it provides you with the key questions to ask about follow-up care, medication, equipment and supplies, and even problems to watch for. These are all questions you must have satisfactory answers for before a senior patient leaves the hospital.

And, you really do want to get this information prior to discharge. It can be much more difficult to get helpful answers afterwards.

The discharge checklist helps both caregivers and senior patients understand what’s necessary for a successful recovery. It’s a partnership between caregiver and patient. Think of it as a handoff. The medical professionals at the hospital have started the process that gets you back to wellness. Now, it’s your turn to keep the process going.

How to Help Prevent Elder Fraud

What is elder fraud? It’s when unscrupulous people take advantage of senior citizens. It affects nearly 40% of those of us over the age of 65, and the loss is over $36 billion annually.

How does it occur? Some of it is going on right under your nose. It includes things that don’t necessarily have to be confusing for seniors, such as misleading financial advice, hidden fees or subscriptions, or even fake dietary products. Here are a few things you need to know.

The 3 Main Types of Elder Fraud

  1. The largest type of fraud is financial exploitation. It’s the cause of nearly $17 billion in annual losses to seniors. Much of this comes as junk mail or unsolicited telemarketing. Scammers defraud seniors by getting consent to take their money.
  2. Seniors lose another $13 billion because of criminal fraud. At the top of the list is identity theft.
  3. Tragically, caregiver abuse contributes another $7 billion in annual losses to seniors. This is not physical abuse. It’s when a trusted person uses their relationship with a senior to inappropriately use finances or even outright steal money.

Who’s Most at Risk?

You might think that seniors with memory issues are the biggest victims of elder fraud. Statistics may surprise you.

  • Studies have shown that thrifty seniors are 5 times more likely to be at risk because they’re attracted by the bargains that get pitched to them by scammers.
  • Ironically, extremely friendly and sociable seniors are 4 times more likely to be defrauded. Experts believe this is because they’re more approachable and tend to give strangers the benefit of a doubt.
  • Even financially sophisticated seniors are at risk. Experts have discovered these seniors tend to lose more due to fraud because they’re comfortable with larger amounts of money.
  • Seniors who receive one or more telemarketing phone calls a day are 3 times more likely to experience a financial loss due to fraud than someone who only gets an occasional telemarketing phone call.

Prevention

The easiest way to keep elder fraud at bay is to check on a senior’s financial situation regularly. There are enough scams to worry about already, but it’ll be in your best interests to start paying attention to those that are particularly aimed at seniors.

You can cut down on telemarketing and potential scams by helping seniors sign up for the National Do Not Call registry. It’s a free service provided by the Federal Trade Commission. You can register online or call 888-382-1222.

Heart Failure In Seniors: Know The Signs

The American Heart Association reports that nearly 6 million Americans have some form of heart disease. It’s one of the top reasons why people over the age of 65 are taken to the hospital.

While it’s important that a medical professional make the diagnosis, there are signs to look for if you suspect that someone under your care may be experiencing heart failure.

Start With the Definition

Heart failure is the term used to describe a condition. It means that the heart is weakened and is not pumping blood as well as it should. When the heart can’t do its job, our kidneys cause the body to retain salt and water. Fluid builds up and our body becomes congested. This becomes known as congestive heart failure.

Heart failure in seniors causes shortness of breath, fatigue, and coughing.

Common Symptoms

Heart failure is usually diagnosed because someone experiences more than one of the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath. Pay attention of a senior complains of difficulty breathing while they’re lying flat.
  • Persistent wheezing or coughing. Pay attention if this coughing produces pink or white mucus.
  • Edema. Pay attention if a senior complains of swelling in their feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen.
  • Fatigue. Pay attention if a senior tells you they’re feeling tired all the time, or if they’re suddenly feeling fatigued by everyday activities like walking.
  • Appetite changes. Pay attention if a senior tells you they feel nauseated, or if they lose their appetite.
  • Impaired thinking. Pay attention if a senior suddenly appears to be confused—especially if it’s accompanied by memory loss.
  • Increased heart rate. Pay attention if a senior tells you they feel as if their heart is throbbing or racing.

We all have days when we just don’t feel right, so it’s usually nothing to be concerned about if a senior tells you they’re experiencing one of these symptoms. They’re all signs of possible heart failure, but each can be caused by many other things.

On the other hand, if you notice multiple symptoms, it’s wise to seek out a medical professional. Heart failure is a serious condition. There’s often no cure, but heart failure in seniors can be treated and managed with medications.

Just What Is a Residential Care Home, Anyway?

There are a growing number of options for senior citizens when they reach the point where it’s not wise to be without assistance. The most obvious option is a nursing home, but that really may not be necessary yet.

Many seniors simply need some help. For them, there’s the option of a residential care home. Here’s what a residential care home is, and why this option deserves your consideration.

Right Under Your Nose

Is your idea of a nursing home a large building on a grassy campus somewhere out in the country? That description may fit a number of nursing homes, but you’ll generally find them scattered in both urban and suburban areas.

What might surprise you about residential care homes is that you’ll find them right in the middle of residential neighborhoods. There could be one not far from your home. That’s because residential care homes are exactly what their names say. They are private residential homes that that provide care to small groups of senior citizens. The size of the home determines how many seniors reside there. In California where residential care homes are plentiful, most have 6 or less residents.

Less, But More

Traditional nursing homes generally provide high levels of care for residents, provided by skilled nursing professionals. Assisted living facilities offer the least care for residents. Residential care homes tend to fall in between. They offer more comprehensive and personalized care because the staff is responsible for just a few residents.

Residential care homes can offer high levels of care for chronically ill seniors, or they may offer only general supervision and help with the activities of daily living. It’s up to the owners, and it’s why it’s important to find out exactly what a residential care home’s range of services is before you make a decision.

Best For

People often ask who would enjoy or benefit most from living in a residential care home. They are a wise option for seniors who strongly oppose the idea of a large, institutional type of living situation such as a nursing home.

Residential care homes offer older adults the ability to live relatively independent lives. They may not be able to live completely on their own, but they still value the ability to make decisions about things like shopping, dining out, going for walks, or even having friends and family visit.

Older adults with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia also benefit from living in a residential care home. Living in a smaller place, say, the size of a residential home, can cause less anxiety and stress. Residents also get more personalized care because staff members get to know their specific needs.

They say you can’t pick the family you’re born into—but as you grow older you can select a group of people to live with who can surround you with the benefits of a family. That’s the idea behind a residential care home.

Loneliness: More Than Just A State Of Mind

Loneliness might be a never-ending source for songwriters, but it’s something that we want to avoid if we want to stay healthy. The older we get, higher the odds are that we’ll feel lonely. A recent AARP study shows that 35% of the survey respondents age 55 or older claimed they were lonely.

It’s not all in our minds. Extended feelings of loneliness have been linked to physical ailments such as high blood pressure and abdominal obesity. It also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The good news is that there are many ways to combat loneliness.

Understanding It

Do you know the difference between loneliness and solitude?

Solitude is often a choice, and you’re feeling peaceful about being by yourself. On the other hand, lonely people often find it difficult to make meaningful connections with others. When this happens, we feel isolated. It can become even more difficult to make social connections

It can be overcome with something as simple as going to the grocery store. Being out among other people and observing how they interact can “jump start” your own efforts.

Step Away from the Computer and Your Smartphone

Spending too much time online is something we can do at any age. Be careful not to let yourself fall into this digital trap. Social networks seem to offer a way to connect with others, but what you need is “IRL” — meeting people In Real Life.

Turn that Frown Upside-Down

Go ahead and believe you’ve got an awesome poker face. People around you can sense your loneliness. They see it in your facial expression.

It’s not just a pithy saying. Smiles are contagious. You can move a long way towards lifting your loneliness by smiling—even when nobody’s looking. It helps you become more approachable. People will find it easier to engage with you.

Get your feet in on this smile action, too. Make an effort to take a different route on your next walk. Smile and nod at a perfect stranger. Loneliness isn’t a one-way street. It may feel awkward, but introducing yourself to someone you encounter on a regular basis but don’t know is a powerful way to bust through the feelings of isolation that loneliness can put around us.

There’s a potential bonus to this, too. The person you’ve just introduced yourself to might also be looking to move away from loneliness. There’s a frustrating irony to loneliness. People experiencing it crave the interaction of others, and yet they find it difficult to reach out to others.