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.

A Better Night’s Sleep? Tips For Seniors.

You’ve probably heard it said that the older you get, the less sleep you need. It’s why seniors are such early birds. There’s another reason why seniors get up early, and often wake up repeatedly all night. 

Often, seniors in nursing care homes are living with chronic pain. Sleeping in a position that doesn’t support their body creates pressure that amplifies the pain. A better night’s sleep can be as close as applying a few of these simple tips to align and support the body.

Start with Comfort and Alignment

When we’re younger, an aligned and neutral sleeping position keeps our spines straight and our lower backs in a natural slightly curved position. This comfortable alignment may not work for seniors.

Kyphosis, or rounded back will prevent seniors from being able to lie flat on their back. For them, an aligned and neutral sleeping position is going to be on their side with their spine supported for a curve—rather than straightened.

Some of the tips offered here call for pillows. Try a folded blanket or a rolled towel before you invest in additional pillows.

Are They a Side Sleeper?

  • Reduce pressure on the upper shoulder by adding a pillow under that arm
  • Use enough pillows to raise the head and maintain a neutral position that aligns the spine with the neck
  • Add a pillow between the knees to align the pelvis, hips, and spine

Are They a Back Sleeper?

  • Use a thin pillow under the head to prevent forward bending of the neck
  • Add a pillow under the knees, which will help to keep the lower back in a neutral position

Are They a Stomach Sleeper?

Sleeping on your stomach isn’t a good idea because it’s hard on the back—but many people prefer this position.

  • Seniors with degenerative disk disease may prefer this position because it offers ease from the pain
  • Consider not using a pillow at all for their head
  • Instead, put a thin pillow under the stomach or pelvis areas

Do They Prefer a Reclining Chair Instead of a Bed?

Sleeping in this position helps relieve the pain of isthmic spondylolisthesis, which seniors can suffer from. The reclined position helps to remove pressure on the spine.

  • You can mimic a reclining chair by using a bed wedge. It’s less expensive than an adjustable bed

Helping seniors to get a good night’s sleep has an important additional benefit. You’ll finally get some rest, too.

Steering Clear of the Flu

Don’t look now, but the flu season is here. If you’re a senior or a caregiver, you’re high on the list for getting sick.

Our immune systems weaken as we get older. Caregivers often have more stress than other jobs, and that can weaken the immune system, too. There are ways to lessen the chances of catching—and passing on the flu bug. Here are some suggestions.

Get the Flu Vaccine

This advice tops just about every list of tips you’ll find on the subject. For two reasons. It lowers your risk of getting the flu in the first place, but it also decreases the severity of illness. Both reasons are advantages for seniors and their caregivers. December is not too late to get the vaccine.

Increase the Number of Times You Wash Your Hands

The flu can bring you to your knees, but turnabout is fair play. The flu virus is fragile and is no match for soap and water. How long do you need to wash your hands? It only takes about 20 seconds—or long enough to make it through 2 rounds of “Happy Birthday.”

A trip to the restroom or kitchen sink to wash your hands isn’t always practical, whether you’re a caregiver or a senior. Stock up on hand sanitizer. It’s just as effective.

Kick Up Your Cleaning Routine

Focus on areas where germs—including the flu virus—are likely to be found, such as doorknobs, light switches, and the counters in your bathroom and kitchen. Then be sure to disinfect the rags or sponges you clean these areas with.

A bleach solution is best, but you can always throw sponges in the dishwasher, or even in the microwave for 1 minute. That’s enough time to kill most bacteria and the flu virus.

Don’t Play the Hero

It’s not always practical, but you should stay away from others if you’ve got the flu. When you are around people displaying flu symptoms, avoid unnecessary contact. Most people are unaware of how often they touch their faces—and that’s one of the most common ways we introduce the flu virus to our bodies.

We also tend to forget about things like our smartphones. Make it a habit to wipe down the phone with rubbing alcohol or a sanitizing wipe—but pay careful attention not to get too much moisture on it.

And if you do come down with the flu, follow that age-old advice about getting plenty of fluids. It’s not an Old Wives Tale. Even plain water helps hydrate you, which aids the nasal passages in staying moist—which traps germs before they can enter the body.