Planning ahead for your hospital discharge

Minor or major surgery ahead? While being hospitalized isn’t usually a reason for celebration, doing a bit of planning for your return home can save you a lot of problems. Your return home is a critical phase in your recovery, especially for patients with a chronic illness. In cases of poor planning, patients risk ending up in the emergency room! Knowing which questions to ask and anticipating your needs are key ways of putting the odds on your side for a smooth recovery.

Minor or major surgery ahead? While being hospitalized isn’t usually a reason for celebration, doing a bit of planning for your return home can save you a lot of problems. Your return home is a critical phase in your recovery, especially for patients with a chronic illness. In cases of poor planning, patients risk ending up in the emergency room! Knowing which questions to ask and anticipating your needs are key ways of putting the odds on your side for a smooth recovery.

Getting informed Doctors can usually foresee the tasks that you will be able to perform upon your release from hospital, the help and material to plan for, and the time it will take to regain your strength. Recovery time varies greatly from one person to the next, however. By having realistic expectations, you can plan for the appropriate support.

It is recommended that you plan for more help than necessary. Depending on your specific case, you may need help with errands, cooking, bathing, dressing, wound care and other medical procedures.

What to anticipate The first thing to plan for is a way to get home: specialized transit, taxi, or a lift with a loved one?

Some patients who are released from hospital may not be ready to return home yet. A stay in a convalescent or extended-care home may be necessary. If that is the case, persons with children or pets must plan for their care during their hospitalization and recovery.

Who can help? Family, friends, and resource persons recommended by your Health and Social Services Centres (centres de santé et de services sociaux). If required, a nurse could come to your home to provide the necessary medical care. In certain areas, there are also cooperatives that offer housekeeping help.

Some individuals will need daily living or homecare aids after their hospitalization or surgery. You should check if upon returning home, you might need a raised toilet seat, shower stool, grab bars, mechanical bed or staircase railing, for example, to make it easier to get around.

In some cases, it is wise to do some rearranging of the home in preparation for your hospital release. For example, it is a good idea to clear out hallways by removing rugs and objects that could cause you to trip. If your bed is on the second floor, moving it to the first floor could prevent stair-related efforts and risks. It is also useful to keep a phone within reach.

Stocking up on frozen meals that are easy to reheat, and on other staples and household items, can make day-to-day living much easier during recovery.

Pain When you have a surgery scheduled, it’s normal to have concerns about the pain you may feel afterwards. However, while a certain amount of aching is possible, intense pain is not usually considered “normal.” Analgesics are an integral part of the recovery plan, because healing can occur more quickly when pain is properly controlled.

You have to be honest with your caregivers about the level of pain you are experiencing. The key to proper post-surgical pain control is to identify the dose that adequately relieves your pain without causing excessive adverse effects. An analgesic dose that is too low leads to unnecessary pain.

Be sure to follow directions carefully and to take the pain-killing medication as recommended by your healthcare professional. Don’t wait until your pain has become intense to take your analgesic, as you will suffer needlessly. Also, pain is relieved more quickly if you treat is right away than if you wait for it to become intense. Remember that when the body isn’t fighting pain, it can focus on healing itself. This isn’t the time to be testing your pain tolerance thresholds!

Medication Medication plays a major role in preventing complications and improving the patient’s comfort after leaving the hospital.

Taking medication incorrectly is a common reason for readmission. It’s important to ask your pharmacist whether some of the medication taken before your hospitalization were stopped and if new ones have been added. You must also make sure you understand when and how to take them. When needed, your pharmacist can put your medication in a pill organizer to make them easier to take.

This is also a good opportunity to clean out your medicine cabinet – not only to remove any medication that has been discontinued, but also to get rid of any leftover tubes and containers whose expiry dates have long come and gone!

Rehabilitation After being hospitalized, some people need a period of rehabilitation with the help of a physiotherapist or occupational therapist. Each exercise may represent a small step towards improved strength, greater range of movement, and better overall function. Being patient and consistent in doing your exercises increases your odds of promptly regaining your autonomy.

Coming home Before leaving the hospital, make sure to take note of your exact diagnosis and of any future appointments, with both the specialist and for a follow-up with your family doctor.

If you have any questions after a hospitalization, don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist. In addition to answering questions pertaining to medication, your pharmacist can help you find the resources available in your area and help you find solutions to issues that may arise during your recovery.

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