Have you ever had the misfortune of being admitted to hospital? If you are like me, it’s happened a few times and whilst the care I received was second to none, I couldn’t wait to get home. For many, the experience of being rushed to hospital unplanned is a frightening experience. What can be more disconcerting though is what happens when you are discharged from hospital. I’m relatively young and had a family and friends around me upon my return, so I had plenty of people to make me feel comfortable and tend to my every need! However, many older people are not so fortunate, their partner may have long died and family may live many miles away. Any friends that live nearby very often are facing health issues themselves and are unable to provide long term practical support. The NHS therefore becomes the trusted organisation to provide that initial support.
A recent article by the BBC highlighted the vast differences in care that’s available for patients being discharged from hospital. For example, Mr Malcolm Gordon suffered a stroke but his wife found it incredibly difficult to care for him due to her arthritis. She relates, “I’m riddled with arthritis and Malcolm needed lifting everywhere because he had been bedridden for a month. He was paralysed down one side and had to be hoisted about. They brought him home in an ambulance, gave me the hoist and I was left to do it all by myself. I had no idea how to work the hoist and I couldn’t manage it on my own. I sat down on the bed and literally sobbed.” Fortunately, regular care has now been put in place which is especially important as Mrs Gordon is now disabled herself. Ernie Hayes on the other hand had a far more positive experience after suffering a heart attack. He relates how a doctor came to visit him every week for many months until she was sure he was on the road to recovery. He says,” It was so reassuring to have a doctor come and see me and to take my pulse and give me a check-up. I felt that if I ever had any problems I would be able to raise them with her and contact her. It was so important for my wife too. It just gave her peace of mind.” It seems that the level of care available can vary from region to region, with some NHS Trusts seemingly more proactive than others in caring for patients that are discharged from hospital after suffering from a serious illness. The NHS Choices website offers some good advice on how to ensure care continues once you get back to the comfort of your own home. While most people require only minimal support, some patients require a more complex discharge program. The NHS states, “As well as hospital staff, your discharge or transfer may involve other healthcare professionals, such as your GP or a community nurse. Organisations outside the NHS may also be involved such as Local Authorities or independent and voluntary organisations.” If you are unsure as to any aspect of your discharge, then speak to the healthcare professional that’s overseeing your return home. Some helpful tips on a successful return home include: Provide a forwarding address for any post. Make sure you have collected your hospital discharge letter for your GP. Make sure you have the medication you need. Make a follow-up appointment if you need one. Ask the nurse in charge of your ward for any medical certificates. One thing that seems vital is this – When you leave hospital you will be given a letter for your GP, providing information about your treatment and future care needs. Give this letter to your GP as soon as possible.
Many hospitals insist that elderly patients have a careline or lifeline service installed in their home prior to them being discharged. This is a great idea, especially for those that live alone or have relatives living many miles away. Having a careline alarm at home means that if a patient encounters any difficulties at all, a simple press of the red button on their pendant ensures that help can be given at any time of the day. There are many organisations and Local Authorities that provide such services. For example, Telecare24 have a specialist department, solely in place to assist patients and the healthcare professional overseeing their hospital discharge. Through their Community Services Department, TeleCare24 liaise with all the parties involved so that an alarm can be delivered to the patient’s home within 24 hours. The nice thing is that patients get the first month of the careline service for free, taking any financial worries out of the equation. After this time period, clients can decide to either return the alarm to Telecare24, or they may choose to continue using the service for a small weekly fee. To contact the TeleCare24 Community Department call 0845 4349001 or email [email protected] So whilst the level of care can differ throughout the UK, there are some things we can do ourselves to limit the stress of being discharged from hospital. Requesting a careline alarm to be fitted in our homes would appear to be a sensible place to start.