The leading cause of hospital readmissions is a lack of sufficient support for post-hospitalization recovery. Did you know that one in five seniors are readmitted to the hospital within one month of being discharged? Once discharged, seniors are increasingly at risk of getting sick. Re-hospitalization is often due to an illness unrelated to the initial ailment for which they were admitted.
The first 72 hours of post-hospitalization care are critical since seniors are extremely vulnerable and tired after discharge. During a hospital stay, seniors are often sleep-deprived, and their regular daily schedules are disrupted. They need additional medications, and they can’t eat before an operation, and eating afterward is often difficult. They’re also mostly confined to the bed and can’t be very active during this time. All of these things can take a toll on your senior loved one’s physical and mental health, and they may need support to recover to their former state of health.
Recovery is a gradual process. It can take anywhere between a few weeks to several months for seniors to recover post-hospitalization. As a family member caring for an aging loved one after hospitalization, you may feel confused and unprepared for the task ahead. Our tips will help you to make the transition from hospital to home for your senior loved one smoother.
1. Get Help to Care for Your Senior Loved One
After hospitalization, additional time may be needed to care for your loved one, and you may not have the necessary experience and training required.
It is important to get extra help during this time, especially for the first 72 hours. Other family members may be able to help out, or alternatively, you can consider hiring a professional home caregiver on a temporary or long-term basis. Professional home caregivers can reduce the stress both seniors and their family often experience after hospitalization, and they can give seniors the best chance possible for successful recovery and avoid unnecessary readmission.
2. Prepare the Room and House in Advance
Seniors may struggle with mobility and balance issues after being in hospital due to illness or operation, which increases the risk of falls.
Rearranging the house beforehand will make it easier for a senior to move around and find what they need without any danger. Here are some examples of what can be prepared:
Place a lamp beside the bed
Store clothes and toiletries at easily reachable places without the need of standing on a step or having to bend to reach it
Clear the area around the bed as well as pathways from any obstacles
Pack loose mats and exposed electrical cords away
Install railings in the bathroom if necessary
3. Seniors Need to Get Sufficient Rest
Even if the senior feels good enough to make food or do chores, it is important that they get adequate rest. Help seniors recover by handling household tasks and running errands for them. If time is an issue, consider getting help with these tasks, such as the support of a professional home caregiver.
If your senior loved one struggles with insomnia, try relaxation techniques to help them sleep better. Relaxation techniques will also reduce stress and help to decrease pain, which are often the main causes of insomnia.
4. Follow Doctor's Orders for Post-Hospitalization Recovery
Make sure you and your senior loved one understand the doctor’s instructions. It is a good idea for a family member, friend, or professional home caregiver to accompany seniors for the post-operation appointment to help keep track of doctor’s instructions. Seniors often forget to ask about the things they’re unsure of, or they may forget what the doctor said, especially if there are a lot of changes to their daily routine.
Sometimes seniors will feel better momentarily and decide to skip a rehabilitation session or stop taking their medication because they believe they’re all better and don’t need it anymore. They can also push themselves beyond their limits because they don’t want to be a burden or they feel helpless. As a family member looking after a senior loved one, you may need to keep an eye on their behavior and nudge them into doing the things necessary to recover successfully.
5. Help Seniors with Managing Their Medication
During hospitalization, new medications for pain or to avoid infection are often prescribed. It can become quite confusing to keep track of medicine, and seniors may need assistance to make sure they take medications at the right time and the right dosages. The advantage of hiring a professional home caregiver is that they will be specifically trained in medication administration.
6. Healthy Eating Is Crucial for Post-Hospitalization Recovery
It is important that seniors eat enough and follow a healthy post-hospitalization diet to strengthen their immune system and accelerate recovery.
Here are a few healthy eating guidelines to follow:
A variety of fruit and vegetables that contain a variety of nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, calcium, and iron should be included in their diet
Lots of fiber in their diet will help to keep seniors regular and prevent intestinal problems
Lean proteins can improve the body’s ability to heal, prevent loss of muscle mass, repair cells, and maintain fluid balance in the body
Drinking enough water will keep seniors hydrated
Diets should preferably contain only whole foods
Sugar, additives, and too much salt are best avoided
If seniors have difficulty eating, avoid foods that are difficult to chew or alternatively smoothies can be a great replacement for a short time
7. Ease Seniors Back into Activities
It’s important that seniors get moving as soon as possible, but first check recommended exercises with their doctor to make sure they don’t overextend themselves. Simple exercises like walking down the hallway may be all they need in the beginning. If your senior loved can’t be too active, physical therapy may be a good option to keep them mobile and help them to recover more quickly.
Seniors are often overeager to get back into doing the things they did before and may not realize that they’re not ready yet. Help them to ease into activities at a comfortable and realistic pace. If you’re working with a professional home caregiver, ask them to incorporate a new schedule into their care plan.
8. Get Back into a Routine
During hospitalization, your senior loved one adopted the rhythm of the hospital, and it’s often difficult to switch back to their own daily routine afterward. It’s best not to make changes too quickly, but rather to get back into the routine slowly. For instance, if dinner was served at 5 pm at the hospital, and they prefer to have dinner at 7 pm, food can gradually be served a few minutes later each day until they reach the desired time.
9. Keep Seniors Away from Sick People
After hospitalization, the immune systems of seniors are often vulnerable, and they may not be strong enough to combat even a common cold.
It’s best to keep small children away from them for a while, especially sick children. Also be diligent during outings where they will be exposed to crowds, and the germs that come with groups should be avoided.
10. Be Vigilant
Look out for hints of a relapse or signs that they may develop health complications, even if it seems unrelated. Since their immune system is vulnerable, it’s easy for seniors to catch another ailment. Also keep an eye out for signs of depression; when confined to bed, it’s often difficult to keep positive, and seniors may often feel depressed as a result.
Since seniors are more at risk of falls after hospitalization, it’s advisable to keep an eye on them, so they don’t hurt themselves by falling or from another hazard.
By following these post-hospitalization recovery steps, your senior loved one is more likely to recover from their operation or illnesses without trouble.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help or advice. Post-hospitalization care is not an easy task, and not everybody is cut out for it. Get in contact with Alegre Home Care for professional caregiver support whenever you need it. Our professional home caregivers have extensive post-hospitalization recovery experience, and we would love to help your senior loved one recover as quickly as possible.