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Hospital Discharge: A Dangerous Period for Seniors


A hospital stay is a tumultuous time for seniors and their families, but the real danger lies in the 30 days following a senior’s hospital discharge. Nobody likes a prolonged hospital stay and given the choice most seniors would opt to go home to heal, as soon as possible. But, without coordinated help and planning, home healing can be a risky and dangerous proposition.

The Risks of a Hospital Discharge

Studies show that when it comes to hospital readmission, age, not health, is the biggest factor – seniors over the age of 65 are at the highest risk of being readmitted to hospital. Up to 20 percent of medicare patients sent home from the hospital are readmitted within 30 days, often with more severe symptoms or health complications, according to data published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The reasons that a senior’s health is most at risk after a stay in the hospital are varied and interconnected, and include poor transitional care, a premature hospital release and having difficulty understanding or executing discharge instructions. However, of these factors, medication is arguably the highest risk for seniors who have recently been discharged.  Medication poses a broad problem for seniors who are over medicated, don’t understand how to take their medication, refuse or forget to take their medication, or take the wrong medication due to an error in the health care continuum of care. Seniors may have difficulty understanding how medicine is prescribed and take too much or too little. Undertaking pain medication can lead to cardiovascular problems and poor healing of the wound, in addition to increased pain.

Medication errors are frequent in the initial weeks after an early discharge, as are falls resulting in serious injury and death. And, it can be difficult to manage wound care, nutritional requirements, and frequently changing care needs.

Reducing the Risks of a Hospital Discharge

There is much you can do to offset the in-home risks for your loved one. The dangers drop significantly when the transition from hospital-to-home is well-planned, coordinated with a care team, and includes a professional caregiver to help out at home or in an assisted living community.

A professional caregiver can help by establishing a healthy routine and serving as a bridge between family members, medical providers, therapists, pharmacists and others so that family members and patients don’t have to navigate the tasks of daily living alone and can focus on getting better.

Discussions to Have with a Discharge Planner

Discharge planning may begin soon after the patient is admitted, when hospital planners sit down with family members and the patient to talk about the kind of care that will be required at home. During these meetings, discharge planners will discuss things like follow-up care, home health care, which includes visits from a registered nurse or physical therapist to check on the patient and pain management strategies. Ask for thorough discharge instructions in laymen’s terms and explain that you would like to be there when they are reviewed with the patient. Make a list of questions to ensure you and your loved one are clear on instructions and who to contact if there is a problem later.  Families should also ask any questions they have about medications, prescription schedules, potential side effects, follow-up appointments, and anything else that comes to mind.

The Arbors Path to Home could be right for you.

The Arbors Assisted Living has created this program with one goal in mind…Going Home and Staying Home. Our specially trained team’s primary focus is to promote self-reliance in order to significantly decrease the likelihood of a return hospital visit.

Find our more about The Arbors Path To Home