Family caregiving after a loved one’s release from the hospital can be stressful. It can be less challenging if you are prepared before you take the ride home. My friend Stan is an active 72 year old. Usually he’s at the gym four days a week, hiking, or making repairs in and around his home. That is, until surgery to correct “hammer toes” went awry and knocked him off his game. Stan was readmitted shortly after the original surgery to address post-surgical complications. Then the wound got infected. The third operation was amputation of a toe. And a fourth to be certain there was no residual infection. Who carried the burden of responsibility for caregiving following each hospitalization? Stan’s wife’s. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
The Plight of the Untrained Caregiver
Immediately after the first operation Stan needed daily infusions at home to treat the ongoing strep infection in his foot. The wound required regular observation, cleaning and redressing. Untrained and overwhelmed, Stan’s wife did the best she could. But she admitted to being overwhelmed. “I feel like they just dumped him on me. I had to arrange for delivery of the infusion supplies. No one besides me has seen the wound since the operation last week, and I don’t really know what I’m looking at. Why isn’t a nurse available to see him two or more times a week? Am I asking too much?”
Transition Planning is Critical
According to The Family Caregiver Alliance, “Patients, family caregivers, and healthcare providers all play roles in maintaining a patientʼs health after discharge. And although itʼs a significant part of the overall care plan, there is a surprising lack of consistency in both the process and quality of discharge planning across the healthcare system.” The Alliance offers this terrific Fact Sheet detailing keys to a successful transition from hospital to home: Hospital Discharge Planning: A Guide for Families and Caregivers. It includes excellent checklists that help caregivers advocate for themselves as well as the patient.
How To Avoid Re-Hospitalization
A handy list of post-release reminders, with explanation of related home health care services provided by Premier Home Health.