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Navigating Hospital Discharge: A Guide to Your Options

Updated: Nov 24, 2023


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Being discharged from the hospital is a major step in your recovery journey. But it also raises questions about where you'll go next and who will oversee your care. Luckily, you have options. Understanding hospital discharge planning can help you choose the best path forward.


In a recent interview on the Beyond the Paper Gown podcast, Dr. Monique Nugent, a hospitalist and author of "Prescription for Admission," shed light on navigating discharge from a hospital stay. She explained that discharge planning starts on day one, with your care team assessing factors like your home support system.


"We assess if they can return home or if they're from a facility and will return there. We consider who they live with and if they're capable of caring for themselves," outlined Dr. Nugent.


What are your possible discharge destinations?

Sometimes after discharge, you may still need services to help you fully recover. If you have sufficient support, you may be able to go straight home with home health services..


"Be honest about what you can handle in your home," advises Dr. Nugent. "You don't want an unsafe situation where the patient or the caregivers get hurt." Share any concerns about managing medical equipment like wound care. Home health services can provide nursing and rehab care at home.


Skilled nursing facilities offer round-the-clock nursing care if you require wound care, IV medications, or rehabilitation services.


Inpatient rehab hospitals focus intensively on therapy to help rebuild strength and abilities after a major illness or surgery.


Long-term acute care hospitals are for those with complex medical needs, such as ventilator dependence, who require extended care. These facilities offer a level of care between an ICU and skilled nursing.


Palliative care or hospice centers provide comfort-focused care for those with terminal illnesses who are no longer pursuing curative treatment. Your team will discuss changing the goals of care if this matches your wishes. "It's about helping somebody be comfortable as they pass away," says Dr. Nugent. Hospice services are also available to support care at home.


What factors determine the recommendation?

Your discharge destination depends on variables like:

  • Your capabilities and support system at home

  • Insurance coverage for facility care options

  • Ongoing medical and nursing needs

  • Therapy requirements


How can you prepare for discharge?

  • Discuss your preferences and challenges to determine the best discharge plan.

  • Clarify next steps for follow-up appointments and care instructions.

  • Ask for written discharge instructions on medicines, wound care, therapy exercises, etc.

  • Arrange for equipment deliveries and transportation.

  • Confirm your caregiver support system.

  • Share discharge paperwork with your primary care provider.

"Pick a day to leave the hospital, and then add a day," recommends Dr. Nugent, as delays often occur in finalizing discharge details. "I tell families to make a schedule of shifts, figure out what support they'll need at home, and ensure everyone's presence during specific time slots."


While leaving the hospital brings relief, the transition requires making many decisions and dealing with logistical challenges. However, proactive planning with your care team can lead to a smooth discharge and optimal recovery. Discussing your options empowers you to choose the right post-hospital care path.


Planning Ahead is Key for a Smooth Hospital Discharge

The hospital discharge process involves important logistics and decisions about your recovery path ahead. While leaving the hospital brings relief, managing this transition also requires proactive planning. Discussing your options empowers you to choose the right post-hospital care path. Have open conversations with your care team about your needs, challenges, and preferences to determine the best discharge plan. This facilitates coordinating details like follow-up care, transportation, and in-home support.


With thoughtful preparation and guidance from your providers, you can have greater confidence and control over your hospital discharge.


For more expert insights on navigating healthcare systems, listen to the full interview with Dr. Monique Nugent on the Beyond the Paper Gown podcast.


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