Senior Living Q & A: Notes on leaving the hospital

Q. It’s time for me to leave the hospital. What do I need to know now?

 A hospital discharge planner will help you prepare for your discharge. This process can take from a few hours to several days, depending on the nature of your condition and your personal situation. It is best for family members and others who will care for you after hospitalization to be involved in this planning.

The main issues you should be concerned about include the following:

•Your ability to perform daily activities after discharge from the hospital.

Who will assist you on a day-to-day basis. If your doctor says he is ordering a home health nurse for you, be aware that the nurse will check your vital signs, examine and dress your incision if you have one, and perhaps give you a sponge bath. You still will need a family member or friend to fix your meals, perhaps assist you in getting to the bathroom and care for your other needs. If you do not have someone to do these things for you, you will probably need to hire a home care aid. Medicare does not pay for an aide; it does pay for a home health nurse.

What to expect from your recovery (e.g., what you should and should not do).

When you should return for a recheck.

Any warning signs that suggest a need to call your doctor.

Having a clear and complete list of your medicines, with special note of those that are different from the ones you were taking before your hospital stay, as well as those that were stopped while you were in the hospital but should be restarted at home.

Once all this has been settled, your date of discharge can be determined. You should receive written notice of the discharge date, after which you have until noon of the next day to decide whether this date seems appropriate. If you think that the discharge date is inappropriate, you should discuss this as soon as possible with both your doctor and the discharge planner.

If you have good reasons for objecting to the date of discharge, it can often be changed. Your goal should be to stay only as long as you really need the specialized care that only a hospital setting can provide.

NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, e-mail it to or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada Family YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.

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