April 20, 2012
Bringing your senior loved one home from the hospital or other medical facility requires a number of safety considerations. From the moment they leave their hospital room to the time they get settled in back home, it is imperative that you plan ahead to make sure the transition from hospital to home is free of dangers and as comfortable as possible.
Among the first considerations are clothing and footwear for your senior to wear home. Loose comfortable slacks and a button front shirt are usually best as they are easier to slip on. Consider sneakers or low slip-on shoes with steady treads to prevent falls. Also be sure to take the weather into consideration and decide if a jacket and/or hat will be necessary.
You senior will likely ride in a wheel chair to the exit and then enter into the vehicle that will deliver him or her home. Make sure to find out how mobile your senior will be so you can arrange for appropriate transportation:
- Ask his or her healthcare providers if standing, walking or sitting will be possible and for how long.
- Find out if your senior will be coming home with any medical equipment such as a wheelchair, IV or oxygen system.
- If your senior loved one is mobile enough you may be able to get him or her home in the car of a family member or friend. However, if there are restrictions you may have to seek alternate private transport services such as a wheelchair van or ambulance. If necessary, the social worker or discharge coordinator can help you arrange these services and help to determine if insurance generally will cover the costs.
If your loved one will need prescriptions, make arrangements to have those filled and picked up either in advance or by someone else such as an in-home care companion, so you can take your family member directly home. Likewise, make sure you have restocked the refrigerator and pantry, as well as picked up any special foods or medical supplies, before discharge.
Even before your senior loved one returns home you should take a look around both inside and outside the house to look for hidden dangers.
Outside make sure walkways and stairs are free of debris and swept clean. Also check hand rails to make sure they are steady and free of chips or splinters and remove any door mats that might cause your senior to trip. Lighting is another consideration so be sure all bulbs are in working order and provide enough illumination.
There are many safety considerations inside the house as well:
- Use this senior safety checklist to help make the return home more secure.
- Get rid of clutter.
- And consider modifications to make your loved one's home more senior friendly (PDF 350k).
When your senior loved one comes home he or she may be a bit disoriented. To make help make things clearer for them install large red and blue buttons over hot and cold water faucet controls to prevent dangerous mistakes. A dark green or brown toilet seat and vinyl tape around the shower will make those fixtures more easily distinguishable as well. To make getting up easier, you may also want to consider installing grab bars or a raised toilet seat. And safety devices, such as lock-in switches on stoves and thermostats can prevent burns and fires from occurring.
Returning home from the hospital should be a happy time for your senior loved one. By taking preventative steps, you can help to ensure the return home is safe as well. If you don't have time to prepare for your loved one's return home, consider hiring an in-home care companion to help ensure your loved one can experience a safe transition home.
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