Questions to Ask Before a Senior Goes Home from the Hospital

Seniors face unique perils when they are hospitalized. Apart from the ever-present threat of Covid infection, delirium, functional decline and medication toxicity are some of the problems that more frequently affect seniors than younger patients. Upon discharge, many patients are overwhelmed by the information they are expected to digest including discharge instructions and follow-up appointments. Perhaps this explains why many seniors suffer re-hospitalization.


According to data collected by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, nearly one-in-five seniors discharged from the hospital will be readmitted within the first 30 days, often from preventable issues like premature discharge or discharge to an inappropriate setting. Re-hospitalization is both costly for facilities and debilitating on seniors who are often demoralized by repeated hospitalizations.


You can help seniors avoid read mission by keenly assessing their home environment. Ensure that they have adequate support in place to follow medical orders and receive necessary follow-up outpatient care. To reduce the possibility that your loved one will be readmitted following a hospitalization, here are some suggestions:


Does the senior live alone? Seniors may require a high level of care for a period of time following hospitalization to move around in their homes, get in and out of bed, bathe, groom and dress, eat nutritiously and attend their follow-up medical appointments. Seniors who live alone may lack the support they need to recuperate safely. Before suggesting that your senior loved one be discharged to their home, consider whether someone is available to provide assistance and care that he or she may need. If not, perhaps professional in-home care services should be considered.


Can the senior manage their medications? Seniors are often discharged with a slew of new prescriptions, some of which may interfere with medications they have been taking routinely. Seniors who take multiple medications may have difficulty adhering to their new medication regimen or may not recognize an adverse drug interaction. You can help by evaluating their current medication list, including new medications and over-the-counter drugs and supplements, helping to identify potential drug interactions, eliminating unnecessary or redundant medications and establishing a simplified medication schedule.


Will the senior be able to maintain a healthy diet? Senior nutrition is a serious issue. Eating poorly before or after discharge can put a senior at risk for falls. You can help seniors avoid this by talking with them about the number of meals they usually eat in a day, what they plan to eat at each of these meals, and how they will prepare meals once they get home. If it appears they will have trouble maintaining an adequate and nutritious diet, consider recommending an in-home care service provider to shop, cook and supervise intake of nutritious meals.


Does the senior have access to transportation? Obtaining follow- up care on schedule after a hospitalization is important to a successful recovery. It is possible to detect warning signs of health or recovery problems before they lead to re-hospitalization. Does your senior have the ability to drive to and from appointments or take public transportation? If they do not, help them secure assistance from family members or professional caregivers.


When seniors transition home successfully after a hospital stay, everyone wins.