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InterView Magazine

Steps to Improve Your Recovery & Avoid Hospital Readmission

You probably remember how much you wanted to get better and go home if you’ve ever been hospitalized. The last thing you want is to go home and then end up back in the hospital! Unfortunately, that’s what happens all too often.
Nearly one in five patients who are age 65+ are re-admitted to the hospital within a month of going home, and one in three are re-admitted within three months.
Going back into the hospital poses multiple concerns, including:
  • Stress (physical, mental, emotional & financial)
  • Risk of a miscommunication to the next provider, which could slow or complicate your recovery
  • Risk of serious medical problems from potential exposure to germs in the hospital; you’re especially
    at risk if your immune system is weak.
The good news is these concerns about returning to the hospital can be avoided—here’s how.
Nurse and Patient
Get clear on medication requirements.
Get clear, detailed written and verbal directions for medications from your doctor: what needs to be taken, when to take it and how to take it— and what not to take. Keep your prescription list current with all details and share the list with your family. And it is helpful to use the same pharmacy as well.
When doctors contradict one another, ask them to clarify their instructions. This could be a sign there’s a misunderstanding.

Make sure you know how to usemedical equipment, if needed.
If your treatment involves using a medical device at home, like a breathing apparatus or oxygen tank, make sure you understand how to use it. Ask your
doctor any questions you have, take notes and make sure a family member is with you to learn firsthand how to use the device.

Use the “teach-back” technique.
When medical personnel give you instructions, ask for a “teach-back.” This technique allows you to hear your post hospital instructions and then repeat them back to hospital caregivers over a period of a few days. This will help you remember instructions about medicines, treatment and care.

Be prepared with the best response for any situation.
Ask your doctors about the danger signs for your condition. Find out what symptoms require immediate attention— and which ones don’t—so that you understand when you need to call 911 versus waiting for a doctor’s visit. Have a plan for how to respond to different symptoms, and make sure your family is familiar with it.

Know who to call if you’re not doing well.
In case your recovery doesn’t go as smoothly as hoped, it’s important to know who to call for guidance, even on nights and weekends. Ask your doctors for these resources and write down the phone numbers.

Don’t forget your follow-up appointments.
Going to follow-up appointments with your doctors is a critical part of your recovery. Schedule the appointments and arrange transportation well in advance, if needed. Enlist a reliable source and ask for help; this could include a family member, friend, neighbor, senior volunteer, church or other resource.

Take advantage of support services.
Know in advance what patient support services in your community are available to use after you leave the hospital. This might include a home visit from a nurse, telephone monitoring or help from a case manager. Why go it on your own? Get support, and it can make a world of difference in recovery.

Stay organized.
Keep your up-to-date medication list and doctors’ phone numbers in a safe, central location where you and your family members can easily access it.

Take your medications as directed, or get a new one.
If a drug makes you feel bad, let your doctor know. The doctor might be able to
prescribe an alternate drug so you can avoid the unpleasant side effects.

Ask questions.
If you have a question, call your doctor. If your recovery isn’t going as planned or
you’re having unexpected symptoms that concern you (but don’t warrant an emergency visit), schedule an appointment with your doctor for a treatment evaluation.

By getting the support you need, you can reduce the chances of problems that could put you back in the hospital.

For tips on how to avoid hospital re-admission go online to these links:  – The Agency for Health Research and Quality’s “Going Home Guide” (PDF) focuses on medication and follow-up appointments. – Medicare’s hospital discharge checklist (PDF) is a checklist of important things you and your caregiver should know, and how to prepare for leaving the hospital.

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