A hospital stay due to illness or injury is cause for worry and stress for caregivers of older adults. But what about when your loved one is released to return home? Becoming the caregiver of aN aging loved one after a hospital stay comes with its own unique challenges. How do you ensure your loved one stays healthy? What do you do if you need to work? Are you the best person for this job?
How much care your loved one needs depends on his or her condition, but there are a few actions you should take to make certain your loved one — as well as everyone else in your household — is comfortable, happy, and healthy.
Moving From There to Here
The transition from the hospital to the home is perhaps the most important step for you and your loved one. As soon as a physician gives you notice that your loved one will be discharged soon, you should begin preparing your house for their arrival. Depending on their level of mobility, you should consider:
- Removing free rugs and adding non-slip flooring
- Installing rails on both sides of stairways
- Increasing lighting
- Placing grab bars in bathrooms
- Organizing necessities in easy-to-reach areas
You can ask your loved one’s doctors and nurses — or other members of his or her care team, including physical therapists — to help you prepare sufficiently for your loved one’s imminent arrival. Additionally, while you are talking to the care team, you should acquire a written discharge plan. This document, which should have been meticulously prepared from the moment your loved one was admitted to the hospital, will include information about caring for your loved one after his or her hospital stay ends. Usually, it will include suggestions for services and treatments after discharge as well as a plan to keep your senior happy and healthy.
The discharge plan should ideally be reviewed with a nurse or doctor, so you can plan appropriate transportation between the hospital and your home and subsequent home care. Often seniors are transferred from a wheelchair to a car with no instructions on how to safely and properly transfer them from the car into the house. Take the time to learn the proper transfer techniques before you need to transfer your loved one.
Elation and unease come in equal amounts after a hospital discharge: On one hand, you and your loved one are joyful to be free from the hospital room; on the other hand, transitioning to a life in a new place, with new restrictions, isn’t always seamless. Many elders have trouble allowing others to do difficult tasks for them, while some seniors give up trying entirely.
Therefore, a conversation is helpful to determine the amount of care they want as well as determining the assistance they will actually need. If your senior would prefer living in a retirement community or care facility, you should respect their wishes; likewise, if he or she wants to stay at home but requires frequent attention, you might hire a day nurse to keep them company during the day or install a medical alert system to ensure rapid medical response. It is vital you discuss the details of care with your loved one, so your senior receives the care he or she needs, and you do, too.
Additionally, studies show that elders who exercise live at least five years longer than those who remain sedentary, so you might encourage your loved one to go on short walks, enroll in a water aerobics class, or engage in some other physical pursuit if and when they are able to do so. Also, studies show that social activity can improve physical mobility, preserve mental health, and can extend your loved one's lifespan.
As caregivers caring for an elderly loved one in your home, it is easy to prioritize others’ needs before your own. Not only do you have a senior who needs care, but you may also have a family and a job that needs your attention as well. It is vital that you take the time to care for yourself - providing self-care will allow you to care adequately for both your loved one and yourself.
If you're looking for a comprehensive resource for family caregivers, check out our online Family Caregiver Guide.
mmLearn.org offers a large library of free videos for caregivers of older adults, covering topics pertaining to senior care. Whether you are a healthcare professional or a family caregiver, if you are caring for an older adult we know that you will find mmLearn.org an essential learning and guidance tool for all of your caregiver training needs. For additional useful training resources for caregivers, access our database of free online caregiver videos today.