It’s a big misconception that seniors enter a nursing home only as a final stage in the medical care process. In fact, Medicare reports that 9 percent of nursing home patients are those needing acute rehabilitation and they have an average stay time of 23 days. However, approximately 43 percent of people over the age of 65 are likely to spend time in a nursing home. Of these patients, 24 percent will be there less than one year. Finally, the average length of stay for those patients who are able to be discharged is 272 days, or approximately nine months.
So if your loved one has spent time rehabilitating in a hospital or is being discharged from a nursing home, how can you ensure that their transition back to a private home is a smooth and safe one? First of all, seriously consider hiring an in home health care professional. You may think that this option isn’t for you because of the expenses or distrust of a stranger entering your home, but the stress, physical and emotional demands, and help with the basics like grocery shopping and housekeeping are well worth looking into. Upon being discharged from the hospital or nursing home, take the time to ask the nurse or staff about contact information for local companies that provide in home care assistants.
Secondly, inquire whether a social worker is available to come to your home to do a safety check. You may need to move an area rug that poses a tripping hazard, add rails to the bathroom walls, have a hospital bed bought in, or purchase a commode. Make a checklist of everything that needs to be done before the patient comes home so that when he or she is discharged, you can just focus on your loved one.
Next, get a list of all the medications that your loved one will be taking. Find out what each medication is for, how often they should take it, what the proper dosage is, and what side effects you should be looking out for. Keep all medications in one location (like in a plastic shoe box and dole them out in the weekly or monthly pill holders) that way should an emergency arise, you can grab the entire box and take it to the hospital with you. In a crisis, the last thing you want to add is a medication overdose or missed dose to further compromise your loved one’s health.
Finally, it is going to take time to adjust to the new living situation. As a caregiver, you may have times of anxiety as this new role presents new challenges. The patient may feel confused, helpless, or guilty for feeling like a burden to you. It is important that the caregiver has time away to refresh and renew.
The best thing to do is to ask questions. There are a ton of resources out there for those who are taking on the task of in home caregiver. Inquire with your loved one’s doctor, hospital, or nursing home. The more you know, the smoother the transition will be for all those involved.