A hospital stay is a right of passage for any patient, but the road to health is often a marathon and not a sprint. Discharge is an essential step in the patient journey, but it can be as exciting for a family as it is daunting. Families can prepare ahead and put all the right pieces in place in order for a “soft landing” home. Here are some of our best tips to ease your family’s transition home from the hospital.
1. Set aside some time to review your home’s physical environment. The best time to figure out if you need to add or rearrange things for comfort or safety is before you bring your son home. Do a walk through yourself and then with other members of your family. Look for any “safety or trip hazards” to be moved, like throw rugs. Ask yourself if you have a good and convenient place to store medications and equipment?
Consider setting aside a shelf or cabinet and organizing and labeling for the placement of items. This way, you will be able to see in advance if you are running low on something before you run out!
If some of the medications need to be refrigerated, is there a designated spot (or bin) for them in the fridge, so they are always easy to locate? Consider having a stash of diapers, wipes and other frequently needed (or emergency) supplies handy in a bunch of centrally located spots around the house. A utensil holder with handle works great for medications and syringes, etc.
Also, make sure to organize and order any equipment (like a breathing/heart rate monitor, kangaroo with a stand, or a car seat) ahead of time.
2. Make sure you are well stocked with over the counter first aid supplies and gadgets. Sometimes when the focus is on prescription medications and complex medical conditions, we forget the simple things. Baby friendly thermometers, diaper rash cream, band-aids and batteries (for medical equipment) are essentials that you will want to have at your fingertips and should be stocked now.
3. Stock a supply of nutritious and easy to prepare foods. Some families may be fortunate enough to have friends, neighbors or family nearby to bring them meals and other necessities. But keep in mind that you have waited a long time to have some alone time as a family. So, have a plan to be as self-sufficient as possible to give you that privacy.
4. Make advance contact lists of people you can rely on. You have come this far relying on teams of people in the hospital and, hopefully, in your family and the wider community. Don’t underestimate how emotionally and physically exhausting this journey has been, and make sure you have paper or electronic lists of how to contact the people you can rely on for the next days and weeks — on your own terms.
You may want to arrange your own “support staff” whether it’s family, friends, a night nurse, nanny, or babysitter to come help. Be ready to accept help when offered, and reach out if they don’t.
5. Contact your outpatient medical staff. Make sure your child’s outpatient medical professionals know about his discharge and are ready to care for him. Set up follow-up appointments now and make sure they get a copy of the hospital discharge records in advance of any appointments you may set up.
6. Prepare now to be on the go. When you are getting ready to come home, the last thing you may want to think about is going out again. But whether you need to leave the house for a scheduled appointment or for an unexpected reason, you should plan now for a “to go” bag of items you will/may need to have with you at all times. You will rest more easily and be better prepared if you make that list now and set aside a bag to be ready and filled at all times.
As importantly, whether you live near the hospital or far away, you never know how long it will take you to get home. Having that bag with you for the ride home is an important step in making for a smooth transition. And don’t forget an extra outfit!
7. Take some time for yourself and your other family members. Things are going to be very busy for the next days and weeks, so while you know Kyle is well cared for, consider taking some time for yourself. You’ve been through quite a lot already and may still have work with your family’s transition ahead. Try to rest up while you can still rely on the hospital staff.
Raissa Hacohen is co-founder and CEO, CareNav, a network of experienced nurses available for one-on-one virtual consultations to empower and facilitate the health care experience of patients, caregivers, and their families.
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