What to do Before Leaving the Hospital

Aging Matters

    Seniors are at risk for readmission if the patient and family ignore care coordination after the discharge. If properly planned ahead of leaving the hospital, the recovery will improve while reducing medical costs.

    That's why it's important for local health systems' to coordinate across all medical venues: hospitals, rehab, skilled nursing homes, clinics, hospice and home. If the patient is 65 and over, Medicare will expect it because if a patient returns within 30 days, Medicare will reduce payments for that particular readmission.

    Today, hospitals receive penalties on the total billed to Medicare if a significant number of treated patients return. The financial consequences began in 2013 and increased over the years.

    However, families and patients shouldn't count on the system to keep them from coming back, instead, learn the steps and become educated on the quick recovery techniques. Here are a few:

    • Know the diagnosis. After learning about the illness, you may be confused and not understand the condition. Have conversations with the medical team about the diagnosis. Ask the name of the disease and what is the expected prognosis. Know the time constraints in making a decision about treatment and learn all the options and pro and cons of each. Be sure to ask for resources to learn more.
    • Commit to the care plan and read it thoroughly before leaving the hospital. Ask the hospital staff for guidance if you have trouble following it. If you can, get involved in the design of your plan. Find out what happens after the discharge; where you will recover, and what happens when you arrive. Learn about the prescribed meds and how to take them.
    • Reach out to the pharmacist because they will give you the best know-how on managing the meds and even the side effects.
    • Go to all the scheduled follow-up appointments; it's especially important after surgery.
    • Make arrangements for home care. If the family will care for you, ask the medical staff what they need to know. Never assume that your son or daughter knows what to do.
    • Keep a list of questions and make sure the physician or health team answers them before leaving the hospital. Have a friend or family member with you when talking with the care team, case manager, or social worker.
    • The care plan is for the patient, and you should always discuss it with the medical team before discharge. Keep in mind that no two plans are the same; they change and revise according to the risks, and the side effects vary depending on the medication and surgery. Remember that it is you, the patient, who is the most valuable member of the healthcare team.

    Carol Marak is an aging alone advocate, columnist, speaker and editor at Seniorcare.com. A former family caregiver, Carol earned a Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from the USC Davis School of Gerontology and writes about personal concerns while growing older.

    Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

    Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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