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How to Assess the Amount of Care Needed following Hospital Discharge

Assessing the amount of care needed for a senior coming home from the hospital.
We have assembled a checklist to help family caregivers determine how much care they might need to provide.

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Dad's hip replacement went smoothly and doctors have told you he'll soon be headed home. Suddenly, panic sets in. How much care will Dad really need? Will his medications change? Will he need any special equipment? Will you need help?

The following checklist may help you determine how much care might be warranted based on your loved one's needs. As you go through the list, make a note of how much time it will take to accomplish the various tasks. If you are considering hiring a home care agency to support you and a loved one, then you will need to factor in a small amount of time to manage those services as well.

  1. Patient Restrictions and Activities: Will your family member be able take a bath or shower, lift heavy items or walk up stairs? Can you leave him or her alone? Are you prepared to help your loved one with exercise instructions as well as train other family members to help?

  2. Equipment and Supplies: Make a list of items you will have to shop for and whether you will need to provide assistance or receive training in using these items. They might include a hospital bed, shower chair, oxygen supply, disposable gloves or special skin care items.

  3. Home Safety: What changes are needed to help make your loved one's home safe? Do you need to move out items that might cause a fall such as area rugs or electrical cords? Do you need to make room for a hospital bed and other large equipment? Is there a prominent place to post important information such as medication schedules and emergency contact information for you and other involved caregivers to reference? Use this Home Safety Checklist to ensure your senior returns to the safest environment possible.

  4. Health Care Tasks: What tasks will you have to perform and will you need any special training to accomplish them? If you can, plan on receiving the training, such as wound care or taking and recording vital signs, while your family member is still in the hospital.

  5. Special Diets: Will you need to purchase and prepare any special foods? For example, your loved one may be on a liquid diet for some period of time.

  6. Medication Management: Will you be able to monitor your family member to ensure he or she takes the correct medication at the right time in the right amount? Is there a chart that explains all the medications and when and how they should be taken? For example, are medications taken with meals or during certain times of the day? Are you and other family members aware of any side effects from the medications? Will you have to go to the pharmacy to pick up medications? Watch these medical management videos for more tips on ensuring your loved one's safety or use this medication management checklist to help you track your family member's medications. Consider a medication management resource that can provide pre-packaged medications that can make life easier for your family member to stay on top of his or her health.

  7. Follow-Up Care: Will you or another family member arrange for follow-up care and appointments? How often and where will they need to take place?

  8. Medical Expenses: As the primary caregiver you may have to manage your family member's medical expenses including correspondence with the hospital, Medicare and insurance companies.

  9. Other Financial Issues: Are you prepared to manage your loved one's finances, deposit retirement payments, balance his or her checking account and pay bills? There may be additional financial issues including taxes and home maintenance and repairs as well.

In addition to managing your loved one's care, be sure to factor in time for yourself. It is important for family caregivers to take care of themselves while taking care of others. Remember that you don't have to do everything on your own; hiring professional in-home caregiver services for even just a few hours per week can give you the time you need to focus on your own needs. Read more about the signs of caregiver stress and why your health is just as important as that of a loved one.

A local Home Instead office can schedule an in-home consultation that could help determine the amount of care an older adult needs by focusing on eight care needs.

Download the Returning Home guide.

Download the Canadian Edition of the Returning Home: Transitional Care Guide

Last revised: April 20, 2012

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