Surviving Hospitalization of an Aging Parent or Spouse–2: 7 Tips for Coming Home

The first thing Deb, the RN-Geriatric Care Manager, said to me during her “courtesy call” at the hospital was something like:

“Get everything in order at home: fresh sheets and towels on bed and in bathroom; wash laundry, your hair; bring in a supply of groceries; do everything you need to do because you won’t have time to do it initially.” Excellent advice.

The following suggestions came from healthcare workers in the hospital
or from what worked well for me

1,  Bring all hospital records and discharge information home. Keep in a separate folder. (Mt. Sinai gives a folder containing this,) Add all future hospital/medical material and business cards from the doctors (easily accessible FAX + other contact info important) if you’re continuing with them after hospitalization. I also added them to my iPhone contacts. Depending on where I was, the information was at hand.

2.  Have a pill organizer at the ready at home if medications are part of the regimen.

3.  If there are prescriptions to be filled, ask if the hospital will phone them in to your pharmacy for you. In our case we only asked for a week’s supply from the pharmacy and they delivered. (We don’t drive in NYC and I didn’t have time for the walk back and forth–20 mins. total).
     Our physician immediately phoned our prescription-by-mail service (which he did in the past when refills were needed) for the 90-day supply. I phoned the service to double-check that they would arrive before our week’s supply ran out.  All came in a timely manner.

4.  Have a calendar or appointment book/engagement calendar that enables seeing–at the least–one week at a glance. It’s the roadmap of life following hospitalization for a serious problem, when additional services will be needed.
A calendar with boxes for each day is perfect for keeping track of and making doctors’ appointments, and all related services (eg. physical therapy). It also allows room for jotting down our personal appointments/meetings, plus  room for schedule changes.
Since I’m more comfortable looking at a big screen (rather than a small one) when making appointments, I add to my computer’s calendar from my old fashion appointment calendar’s boxes. Yes, the cloud can efficiently make connections between my computer and iPhone and that’s good in a “pinch;” but I prefer the computer’s screen size and the engagement calendar’s boxes. This may be age-related?

5.  Put an armchair with firm seat in a convenient place for socialization. Makes it easier for people with weakened muscles from a hospital stay to sit and get up– and enjoy the stimulation of those in the room.

6.  Make certain the bathroom is safe: a shower bench, grab bars, a raised toilet seat with arms.
Most NYC apartments have small bathrooms. Showers aren’t wide, toilets are often inches from the vanity and sink. My independent husband was positive he needed none of the above–all of which were recommended by the hospital social workers and Deb.
Because our bathroom was remodeled with a “comfort height” toilet right next to the vanity and sink, we didn’t need the additional raised toilet seat with arms. While the shower floor wasn’t slippery, I had concern too much shower steam could make the showerer woozy. But my husband declined the shower bench, saying the shower was so small he couldn’t have a problem.
The shower bench, from what I understand, isn’t covered by Medicare. Don’t know about grab bars or raised toilet seat because we never ordered them and, as it turns out, they weren’t needed.

IMG_0971That said, Sr. Advisor R had her shower refitted after breaking her hip when she was 97. She staunchly rejected help and knew this was the best tactic to justify her refusal. (Click photo at left to enlarge)

I plan to have grab bars installed in the near future. If we plan to live to be 80+, why not!? And, while more costly, they needn’t look institutional.

American Standard bath safety

Click to view American Standard’s Avisia ADA-compliant offerings.

Related: 13 Tips for Surviving Hospitalization of an Aging Parent or Spouse
               Old Bathrooms, Old Parents–97-year-old’s ADA-compliant shower updates
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