Providing Healthy Post-hospital Care for Seniors
One of the local providers of post-operative care for discharged patients is Safe Care Home Support Services, based in Coquitlam but serving all over Lower Mainland. The Care Director of safe Care is registered nurse for well over 20 years, she sees the challenge being solved by a carefully crafted two-stage plan involving both the medical staff at the hospital… and caregivers, whether relatives or professionals. In her experience, there are some basic yet crucial steps that all parties involved would be well advised to consider. It is incredibly easy for medical professionals to overlook these steps – they are involved in this world every day that these basic steps no longer appear important compared to everything else they deal with. For non-professionals – direct family members, relatives and friends – this is all brand new and while they are on a ‘learning curve’, these basic steps do not occur to them. In their ‘rush’ to help the patient, they often will over-stimulate and ‘push’ things – with good intent – but with less than ideal results. Here are the four basic steps that she recommends caregivers ensure that they learn.
- Know – and Accept – the Risk
Awareness is the first vital step. Knowing what your loved one may be facing – like being much more prone to developing health complications following a hospitalization – will ensure that you remain vigilant. Caregivers – family members or professionals alike – need to keep their senses tuned for any potential health problem, no matter how small, even if they seem completely unrelated to your loved one’s recent hospital visit.
- Re-build Their Reserves
A priority for your recovering loved one is to ensure that they are getting adequate amounts of nutritious food, quality rest and frequent periods of quality relaxation. This is the best way to revitalize and strengthen their immune system. It’s also important not to forget about the role of physical activity in the recovery process. Deconditioning from prolonged bed rest is common in recent hospitalized patients, especially long-term patients… and can contribute to a host of health problems. It is important to get your loved one moving, even if it’s just walking down the hallway or up and down the stairs a couple of times.
- Ease Them Back into Activities
Depending on their cognitive abilities, the patient may or may not be aware of the effect that their recent hospitalization has had on them. They likely are weaker and/or more disoriented, especially if they are a senior. Rarely will they know how their ability to do the things they used to do before being hospitalized has been compromised. “They need to get their bearings back before engaging in daily activities, such as walking or exercising, much less driving,” Bahkshian advises. “In our experience, it is best to literally set a schedule to reintroduce them back into and increase the levels of their old activities.” Assuming your patient is capable of understanding, clearly explain the importance of getting back into the groove gradually.
- Re-introduce a Routine Into Their Life
Hospitalization leads to inevitable disruptions to a person’s daily routine. Depending on how long their stay was, a senior may have become somewhat acclimated to the rhythm of life as a hospital patient. When making the switch back to life at home, be sure to take things slow… as mentioned above. Routine is also extremely important. For example, if your loved one was used to having dinner at 5:30 p.m. in the hospital, don’t immediately start preparing their nightly meal at the 7:00 p.m. as they were used to. Instead, start gradually serving them dinner ten or 15 minutes later every day until you reach that 7:00 p.m. goal.
- Stay Away from Sick People
The compromised immune system of a senior just returning home from the hospital is likely not yet strong enough to combat even a common cold. So it is a good strategy to keep recently-discharged seniors away from small children and/or outings where they would be exposed to large numbers of people (and their attendant germs). Plenty of disinfectant soap/hand wipes should be readily at hand and even masks, though cumbersome and not pretty, should be used when prudent.