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Coming home from hospital

                                       February 2011


Coming home from hospital

Home from hospitalAs we get older, the chances of having to go into hospital for a spell increase. With medical problems and procedures to contend with, little thought is usually given to the day when you return home. While most people are delighted to be sleeping in their own beds again, the readjustment from hospital care and monitoring to being back home can take a lot of energy, and quite a few patients end up back in hospital because they didn’t have enough support in the days immediately after they returned home.

Depending on the severity of the medical problem, there is a lot of outside support available for patients returning home. While a patient is still in hospital, he or she should be given full information on their recovery plan before they are discharged. Specialist assistance may be available, for instance an occupational therapist may visit you in hospital to discuss equipment you might need or adaptations to your house. You can also be told about support and care services that may be available, either free or at a charge, during your recovery period.

The key to a successful return home is preparation. It is all too easy to spend time getting ready for a visit to hospital, but it is also so important to ensure your home is properly prepared for your return. This is not always possible in emergency situations; but for many procedures there is adequate warning.

A vital aspect for your return home is to ensure the house is clean, warm and welcoming. If you think you will be returning to an empty house, you can prepare things yourself before you leave home; if you live with a partner or friend, it might be a good idea to just jot down a basic check list for them. Areas that need to be addressed for your return include:

1. The bed. A bed with clean crisp sheets and lots of soft comfortable pillows is a wonderful welcome home. Even if you have made an excellent recovery, the change from hospital routine to home can be exhausting. Having a clean tidy welcoming bedroom and comfortable bed can make all the difference. A jug for water and an unbreakable glass on the bedside table is very useful; medications can make one thirsty at odd hours through the day and night. Ensuring there are a couple of unread recent magazines and books by the bed and a good bedside light with an easy on/off switch is also a good idea. Your sleep pattern may be disrupted after a spell in hospital. If you may have a fairly long recovery period, a television or radio in your bedroom can obviously be useful.

2. Clothes and care. Depending on the situation, you may be spending quite a few days resting on your return home. Check your wardrobe and ensure your stock of casual, easy to wear clothing is adequate. When you do return home, you won’t immediately be rushing back into a normal busy lifestyle and this could be the best time possible to pamper yourself. Even if you normally shower, this could be the time long leisurely baths might appeal. Be prepared for a short change in lifestyle while you get back on your feet. Statistics are full of people trying to “get back to normal” too quickly and instead setting their recovery back.

2. The house. Access to the house is of course important, and you may have arranged for some additional keys to be cut and held by a neighbour while you are away. Arranging for a professional cleaner to come round to the house before you are discharged can help to give you a wonderful welcome home. Many cleaning agencies offer one off special cleaning visits at quite affordable prices, and if you explain the situation, they can usually arrange a “stand by” day to give some flexibility to fit in with when you may be discharged. If you have friends or neighbours who are going to help on your return, let them co-ordinate with the cleaners and between them you can ensure there is some fresh milk in your fridge; bread in the bread bin and so on.

Ensuring the house is warm and there is hot water available immediately on your return is important. It can be a good idea to write down how the hot water system works in your house before you leave for hospital, so that whoever is preparing the house for your return doesn’t encounter problems controlling the heating.

3. Having food in stock for a few days is essential; so many people get home and immediately start doing normal household chores only to find they are suddenly exhausted which is no help to making a good recovery. Even planning and cooking meals can be surprisingly tiring when you are not fully fit. It can be useful before you go into hospital to stock up with some quick ready meals and freeze some chopped vegetables as a standby; this can be a good idea even if you expect someone to be at your house ready to greet you and look after you. If any of the arrangements go wrong, you really don’t want to have to think about shopping in the days immediately after your return. You may find that you don’t want your normal main meals after a spell in hospital and prefer more frequent smaller snacks; so be prepared to alter your normal shopping lists and eating habits for a while during your recovery.

4. Visitors. This can be tricky; friends and family may want to visit and wish you well, but visitors can be exhausting, especially in your own home where you can feel duty bound to offer cups of tea and snacks. Don’t feel bad about putting people off, they really will understand. Just explain that you are having a very quiet week or few weeks to ensure recovery, but then would so love to see them when you are fitter. Long phone calls too can be surprisingly tiring; again be firm with yourself and your friends and explain that you are keeping calls to a minimum during your immediate recovery period. No one will take offence and it is easy for friends to forget that if you sound normal on the phone, you may still be quite weak after your hospitalization.

Your GP should have been advised of your return from hospital, and there are numerous support agencies and groups available depending on the medical problem.


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