June 21, 2012
Both you and your senior loved one will likely be happy and relieved once he or she is discharged from the hospital. However, the first 48 hours back home are absolutely critical for both of you. Making sure he gets proper nutrition and hydration, takes medications as prescribed and monitors activity levels are all important to recovery and key components of your caregiving responsibilities.
One of the most vital activities that all caregivers must provide, especially during this critical first 48 hours home, is monitoring for and acting on warning signs of potential health issues.
Before your loved one even leaves the hospital or other medical facility you should work with the discharge coordinator, social worker or doctor to prepare a discharge checklist. Once your senior is back home, it is important to keep a record of his or her recovery process. The record could include what and how much is eaten, medications taken, activities and the level of assistance provided each day.
Nutrition management is especially important. Sometimes during recuperation periods, people won't feel hungry or their medications might make food taste funny so they don't eat as well as they should. Therefore, it is important to watch for signs of dehydration or poor nutrition such as depression, weight fluctuation, lethargy, poor skin tone and cognitive problems such as confusion or disorientation. Medication management is another vital care factor that includes tracking medications, getting refills, making sure proper dosing happens and watching for signs of interaction or reaction.
Health related warning signs don't necessarily come with loud bells and bright lights. In fact, many are much more subtle and could be over looked or passed off because they seem inconsequential or “matter of course.” Missing or ignoring those signs could be a huge mistake and lead to further complications and readmission for your senior loved one.
According to the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, be sure to call the doctor if any of these general problems appear:
- No bowel movement in three days
- New skin problems
- Change in balance, coordination or strength
- Change in mental status or behavior
- Ineffective pain management
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Running out of medication
- Dizziness or fever
The VNSNY also advises that you should also call 911 if your senior experiences:
- A fall with bleeding or a broken bone
- Severe or prolonged bleeding
- Severe or prolonged pain
- You are unable to wake the senior
- New onset of slurred speech
- Sudden weakness
- Chest pain that medication does not help
- Increased difficulty breathing
When calling either the doctor or 911 be sure to have your loved one's recovery record, list of medications, and list of doctors and other healthcare providers in hand. Use this handy Caring for Your Parents: Senior Emergency Kit℠ to record this information in advance.
For certain, caution and diligence are the watch words during a senior's first 48 hours after being discharged from the hospital. If you think you might need some outside help, Home Instead CAREGivers℠ can provide assistance with many of these tasks such as medication management, record keeping and nutrition management.
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