Stressful Transitions III

Going home from the hospital!

After any length of hospital stay home seems like the promised land. But in my experience, returning home after a serious illness can be unexpectedly stressful. After being cared for, all of a sudden you and your family or caregivers are in charge of everything–which includes getting groceries, making meals and paying the bills, on top of the task of taking one’s medications, completing daily therapies and getting some rest.

Unlike 30 years ago, hospitals discharge patients when they are still sick. They may not be critically ill, but they probably do not feel well yet. So when you go home, you will likely need help. If you do not think you will be able to take care of yourself at home and do not have anyone to help you, insist that the hospital keep you until you are better or appropriate home care is arranged. The hospital does not want you to be readmitted and neither do you!

Our docs always say that my family member will be discharged right after morning rounds. In practice, we have never been discharged before mid-afternoon, and usually later. I recommend asking the doctors for all of the prescriptions you need at morning rounds and not at the time of discharge. You can then ask a family member or social worker to drop them at the pharmacy so that they will be ready to pick up when you leave.

If you have more than two medications to take, ask for a nurse or hospital pharmacist to sit with you and create a schedule of when you are going to take your medications. One of the reasons I created DotFriday was because of the stressful first nights home when I would spend a couple of hours trying to figure out how to time all of the medications. If you use DotFriday, you can input the medications on a computer at the hospital and it will generate an adjustable schedule for you.

Your friends and family will be thrilled that you are home, but don’t be afraid to tell them that you still need their support and company. The tasks of daily living are exhausting when you do not feel yourself and social isolation is bad for your physical and mental health. Reach out–even if you think you are imposing. Just promise yourself you will help someone else when you are able. Keep the cycle of support going!