Discharge Planning- What to expect after your loved one has been in the hospital

June 15, 2018 0

When your loved one is admitted to the hospital, it is a stressful situation for you and them.

Hospitalization is sometimes unavoidable, however.

There is an event that happens when the hospitalization over that should be taken seriously.

That event is discharge planning.

In this post, I will go over why you need to take discharge planning seriously. And how you can work to create a discharge plan yo and your loved one will follow through on.

Discharge planning: Why it is so important

You should take discharge planning seriously because a proper  discharge plan and follow-through will increase the chances of your loved one staying out of the hospital.

When your loved one is hospitalized, chances are you will have to miss work which makes you less productive. Hospitalizations are also expensive and can cause financial stress. And let’s not forget hospital-acquired infections which happen just because your loved one was admitted.

Needless to say, one hospitalization is enough.

As a caregiver or family member, one of your goals after hospitalization is to keep your loved one out of the hospital as much as possible.

In fact, there is research to show that excellent planning and good follow-up can improve patientsʼ health, reduce readmission, and decrease healthcare costs.

Not all hospitals are good at discharge planning. Because of staffing issues, discharges may be done hastily. Important issues are missed when this happens.

This is why you cannot leave discharge planning entirely to hospital staff.

The truth is that while there are standards set forth by the American Medical Association and the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), not all hospitals follow through with these standards.

It is therefore up to you to take up the charge.

Discharge planning done right

As I said, you cannot leave discharge planning entirely to hospital staff.

As a caregiver/family member, you are most familiar with your loved one’s medical history.

This knowledge is invaluable when it comes to crafting a discharge plan that suits your loved one’s needs.

Thus, the first step to ensuring a smooth discharge panning process is to discuss the discharge plans with the medical team at the hospital.

Topics that you can discuss with the medical team at the hospital include:

  • Your willingness or ability to take care of your loved one after discharge. Perhaps you have a full-time job and you will not be able to provide hands-on care after discharge. Make sure you discuss this with them. Hospitals have social workers can connect you with home care agencies who can step in.


  • Your financial situation is something worth discussing with the discharge team. If you work outside the home and have to hire help, this is an additional financial cost. Social workers at the hospital can connect you with community resources you can take advantage of if money is an issue.


  • Special medications or herbs that your loved one takes at home. If there are medications, natural remedies or herbs your loved one takes at home, it is important to discuss this with the discharge team. Dangerous chemical interactions can occur between a prescribed drug and a natural remedy. The last thing you want is for a serious injury or death to occur because of a dangerous drug interaction after discharge from the hospital with a prescription. Medscape has a detailed list of dangerous drug interactions you can look up here.

Special considerations during discharge planning

  • If your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia, you will need to be present for all discharge instructions. These conditions will also affect discharge instructions and so need to be discussed so that the best care suitable for your loved one is provided.


  • If they underwent surgery and so have a wound that needs to be cared for, ask for clear instructions on how to do this. If possible, ask that you practice this at the hospital at least once before your loved one is sent home.

As a caregiver and family member, you are entitled to ask any questions during this time.

Don’t be shy or feel stupid about asking any questions.

A seemingly “stupid” question could save the life of your loved one.

Some of these questions you can ask include:

  • Are there side effects of prescribed drugs?
  • What can I expect after this surgery/treatment?
  • Causes for alarm. What should I watch out for? 
  • Are there any follow-up appointments? Where do we set those up?
  • Can they have people visiting them starting today?
  • Will we need a hospital bed at home?
  • Can I get a print-out of the instructions you have just given me?
  • Should we be avoiding certain foods?
  • Do we need special instructions because my relative has Alzheimerʼs or memory loss?
  • What is a number I can call if I have additional questions?

Asking these types of questions ensures you get tailored answers for your loved one’s situation and decreases the chances of them being readmitted.

If your loved one is being discharged from the hospital to a rehab facility, all these questions are still necessary. Getting these questions answered means that you can ensure the next facility is doing the right thing while your loved one is there.

Closing Thoughts

Discharge planning after hospitalization is important. It is best if you take the lead in ensuring the best discharge decisions are made for your loved one.

This reduces costs. It also prevents readmission.

Did you find this post useful?

Please share it with someone who is looking for direction with discharge planning for their loved one.


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