Part one in this series highlighted five ways we can help our parents plan in advance of an unexpected hospitalization, including establishing an advanced directive and durable powers of attorney, making their healthcare wishes known, listing children on HIPAA forms at their physicians’ offices, documenting and sharing family and personal medical history, and communicating medical insurance information.
This week’s column brings to light ways we can be advocates for our parents once they leave the hospital.
No matter the length of the stay, we all want to go back to the comfort and safety of our home. Our parents are no different, but with seniors that desire often replaces reason.
Studies show that many seniors are so anxious to leave the hospital that they’re not honest about whether they can manage their discharge. They say they understand instructions when they really don’t. They say they have caregiver help even if they’re alone.
Here are the last five questions to consider before your parent is discharged from the hospital:
6. Who will manage your parent’s care transition? If your parent was hospitalized, most likely their abilities will have changed during their hospital stay. For many older persons, hospitalization results in functional decline despite curing or repairing the condition for which they were admitted. Seniors may experience a decline in muscle strength, instability when walking, a decline in appetite or thirst, or increased incontinence.
Since your parent’s condition may have changed, they may not be able to return home unaided right away, and you may need to make alternate plans.
The hospital discharge planner will offer guidance, but many decisions will need to be made by your parent and you. What role will your parent be willing or able to play? Who besides you will want to take part in those decisions?
7. How will you navigate the complex choices in front of you? What skilled nursing facility do you choose? What in-home care agency? How much can your parent afford, and what would they want? How will you get the facts about their options?
Would you want professional guidance, someone to bounce options off of? What informed impartial resource is available to help you navigate these choices? How will these decisions play out in the long term?
You can get a list of questions to ask when making medical decisions at www.thecaregiverspath.com.
8. Who will stay with your parent for the short term? Most likely a family member will need to be with your parent for a while. Who can take time off from work?
Which family member is best for the hands-on work; for example, who is willing to help bathe mom? Once the choice of who will stay with a parent is made, what is the plan to cover the responsibilities of the person who will be caring for them? Even in the best of families, these decisions often require empathy and good negotiating skills. While one child may take the lead, siblings can play an important role
The free online service, Many Strong (www.manystrong.com), can help you coordinate care for a loved one so you can get much needed logistical, financial and emotional support.
9. Do you have what you need to assist your parent during their care transition? If your mom will be staying in a rehab facility, do you have the key to mom’s place to get things she may need?
Do you know the items she would want to bring with her? Does she have legal documents and information you need to be able to access and pay bills? Do you have contact information for others that may need to be informed of mom’s situation? Does mom have a pet that needs taking care of?
And finally, 10. How will you share information among family members? Will one person be the disseminator of information? Who will return calls from relatives and friends? How will you communicate— phone, email or text?
One last note: During the recuperation process, keep in mind that your parent wants to feel they are a contributing member of the family. What they need from you is support during this transition so they can get back to living as independently as possible.
You can help your parent have a better hospital experience and recovery by speaking up and being their primary advocate, and encouraging them to do the same as soon as they are able. This is an important and easy role to overlook.
Don’t underestimate your role as an advocate; your parent’s health may depend on it.