Have you ever heard the term “discharge starts on admission”? Well, this is a term we use in the hospital and if you never had a loved one in the hospital, chances are you haven’t.
Yes, discharge starts on the first day in the hospital. What usually happens is the discharge case manager comes to the patient room and introduce him or herself. She or he will ask questions to get a feel for the family dynamics, the decision maker, who does what, if the patient lives alone /or with someone, contact numbers of family members, and other questions to help prepare for discharge.
Some family members may not be prepared for their loved one’s discharge, especially if the patient lives alone and the family member was told the patient was unsafe to go back home by themselves. This can be very hard for a family member who works, stay out of town, or is unable to stay with their loved ones.
The discharge planner should help you with home health or in-home care agencies to call or choose from if needed. Just know you have the right to choose and ask questions. They should present you with at least five or more agencies. Even though we look to the discharge planner for guidance , we must do our due diligence as well.
However, this is hard when the discharge case manager has a hard time talking and contacting family members, or days have passed with no contact with the discharge case manager. For this reason, it’s very important to know who your loved one’s discharge case manager is and to talk with him or her every day for changes in discharge. If you work, schedule a time to speak with him/her or let them know when you can meet with them. The worst thing a family member can do is nothing, no decision made, and discharge is getting close, don’t talk at all, or don’t call to ask questions at all and then get upset when you get a call at work to let you know your mom or dad is being discharged “today.” We just can’t leave it all to the discharge case manager, especially if you are unavailable. For example, if your parent is in the hospital due to a fall or an illness, you could ask if they will need someone at home until they get strong enough to get back on their feet.
A few helpful and appropriate questions to ask the discharge case manager would be:
- How long will my loved one be in the hospital?
- What will be needed once they are discharged?
- How can I help to make sure the discharge goes smoothly?
- Do you think they will be able to go back home by themselves?
- Do they need in-home care or home health?
This will help you and your loved one to get prepared if help is going to be needed at home or not. Who will be there to pick your loved one up at discharge and take care of their medication need? And if your loved one is unable to stay by themselves, who will be there? By talking with the Discharge Case Manager, these questions can be asked and answered.
Finally, a patient cannot be discharged if it is considered an unsafe discharge. So, it’s time for your loved one to go home today. Will you be ready? Remember that your discharge case manager is there to help.