When Your Aging Parent Is Hospitalized – Part 3
This is Part 3 of a 3 part series on this topic.
Click here to see Part 1. Click here to see Part 2.
When my Dad had surgery to replace his broken hip at age 95, he spent one week in the hospital recuperating and then almost two more weeks in a rehabilitation facility. We were all ecstatic when he was told he could go home!
Then it got rather interesting. I had to look at many facets of my Dad’s daily living with a new perspective because the rehab nurse handed me a 38 page manual covering the basics of post-operative home care for hip replacement patients. It included precautions, exercises, transfer techniques (i.e., getting in and out of bed, cars and chairs), walking with a walker, stair-climbing (thankfully he didn’t have stairs at home), dressing and bathing. Yikes!
Things I’ve learned from this experience (and also when my Mom was hospitalized briefly) that can help you and your aging parent in this transition from hospital or rehab facility to home are:
- Meet with the doctor, nurses, physical and occupational therapists to get clear written and verbal instructions your Golden Oldie will have to follow at home, and for how long. Will it be just until a re-check with the doctor in a few days or for weeks, perhaps months, until fully recovered?
- If possible, attend physical and/or occupational therapy sessions before your parent is sent home. The more information you can take in about your parents’ physical needs, the easier it will make it at home. Some people learn best by watching, not just talking with the therapists. They will be happy to have you “practice” with your parent in front of them to be sure you and your parent understand. For example, a simple thing we do every day, such as sitting on the edge of a bed, bending over and tying one’s shoes was a definite “no-no” for my Dad after hip replacement surgery. Another thing I learned was how my Dad should use the walker when getting up or sitting down in a chair. None of us had ever even owned a walker before. Some Golden Oldies may need a wheelchair when they first leave the hospital, and properly using one is another learning curve for you all to tackle. I’m the worst at steering those things (with no reflection on my car driving abilities however!).
- Anticipate how any new medical equipment your parent needs will fit into their home environment. For example, will the wheelchair be able to roll into the bathroom they use the most, or is the doorway too narrow? If they need a hospital bed, coordinate with the hospital staff to see that it is ordered, delivered and set up before discharge. Will they need a commode temporarily near the bed? Will they be able to go into the kitchen to eat or will they need a tray to eat meals in bed at first?
- Hospitals and rehabilitation facilities are usually very good at going over medications with the patient and family before discharge. Be sure you are present when this is done, because your Golden Oldie may be weak or unable to concentrate fully at discharge time. You should be the “technical interpreter” and be clear about the names of all medications, what they are for, dosages, when they are taken, and other special instructions (such as take only on an empty stomach). There may also be special dietary items and/or restrictions you should learn as well. The staff may be willing to call in the prescriptions to your favorite pharmacy right before discharge. You can then pick them up on the way home, and not have to leave your parent alone at home because you need to fill their prescriptions. It won’t hurt to ask if the nurses can make the phone call for you.
- Sometimes the smallest things make a huge difference! At the time of my Dad’s hip replacement surgery, our family had a mini-van and a sedan automobile. I had always used the sedan to take my parents out and about on errands. However, after the surgery, it was much easier for Dad to get in and out of the mini-van. Because the seat was higher it was easier to slide onto the seat, plus it met the important post-surgical hip precautions. The sedan’s seat was 1) too low, and 2) could not be moved back far enough to give him adequate leg room. You may even need to have someone else drive you and your parent home.
- Your Golden Oldie may be weak when they first arrive home — very happy and relieved, but weak and/or slightly disoriented from their ordeal. Just as you did when they were in the hospital, if you feel they need extra TLC for awhile, arrange with other family, neighbors and/or friends to spend the first few days with them until you are certain they are able to manage again on their own for longer periods of time. They will hopefully bounce back quickly from whatever setback they had and resume their normal activities.
- Last but not least — food! If you can stock your parent’s refrigerator with the staples that will also save you both a trip to the grocery store that first day home. Even better, if you have time, prepare some of their favorite foods to fill the frig. Classic comfort foods, such as meatloaf, mashed potatoes, pot pies, chicken noodle soup, beef stew, macaroni and cheese or other pasta, and casseroles may appeal. Of course, be sure your Golden Oldie doesn’t have any dietary restrictions to follow, and if they do, be sure the foods you prepare or buy follow all of the requirements.
The key to making this transition go smoothly is for you to anticipate as much as you can. As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, thoughtful planning makes everything less stressful when faced with family emergencies or challenges. You’ll usually have an idea when your Golden Oldie will be discharged, so use that time to your advantage.
And remember, being home and surrounded by familiar people and things is great medicine for our Golden Oldies!