A hospitalization can be daunting for patients and their families. However, as harrowing as that time can be, there’s another that’s just as critical. That would be when they are discharged from the hospital. Studies show that 40% of patients 65 and older had medication errors after leaving the hospital. Eighteen percent of Medicare patients are readmitted within 30 days of discharge. This is not good for anyone be they the patient, family, hospital, or medical funding agency. However, there are steps that can foster a smoother, safer hospital discharge.

One is to be actively involved with the discharge staff at the hospital. They are the ones who will be planning and making suggestions for you. While they may be experts, as the family member, caregiver, or the patient, you are the one who’s the expert on the patient and his or her history. Speak up if you feel something is being missed. Also, be clear with the staff as to limitations in what care you can provide after the discharge takes place.

Sometimes, hospitals recommend getting either home health or checking into rehabilitation centers. If that is the case, begin researching this early. That way you can have more time to make an educated decision. Remember, no matter what anyone tells you, federal law guarantees you the freedom to choose any healthcare provider. No one can restrict your care based on your choice for other care settings. Make certain you are on the same page as the doctor about what medications he or she prescribes. It would be helpful to keep lists written down, so that when you pick up the prescriptions, you can check to make certain there was no error on that end. It is also important to understand and keep your discharge papers. Other providers may need to see them.

The Family Caregiver Alliance has a great resource on their website. Go to: https://www.caregiver.org/hospital-discharge-planning-guide-families-and-caregivers. There you will find an in-depth list of questions to ask about the many different aspects of the discharge process.

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