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What To Do Before You Are Discharged From A Hospital

A Discharge Plan

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Discuss the practical aspects of life after leaving the hospital (a discharge plan).

A checklist of topics to cover should include the following subjects. Feel free to add any additional questions or concerns: 

  • Where you will live and get care after discharge.
  • What you can do to help yourself get better.
  • Symptoms that might signal problems.
    • What to do about them if they occur
    • Who to call, at what phone number, and when. (If the symptom occurs in the middle of the night, call then?)
  • Review the medications you are taking. (It is helpful to create a List of Medications to keep with you at al times). 
    • Are there additional drugs to add to the list that you may require when you get home? 
    • Any drugs that should be eliminated? (If so, check with the doctor who prescribed them before eliminating any drug.)
    • Review potential drug side effects and what to do.
    • Consider how to obtain medications. (In addition to the normal sources, the hospital pharmacy may be less expensive than your regular source).
  • Ask to shown (and to show your caregiver) any tasks that require special skills like changing a bandage or giving a shot. Then show that you can do the task. Ask for a name and number to call if you get questions.
  • Consider how to obtain medications. (In addition to the normal sources, the hospital pharmacy may be less expensive than your regular source).
  • Request printed guidelines where available. 
  • Ask if you will need special medical equipment. If so, who will arrange for it? What number should you call if there is a problem with the medical equipment? What is the name of an alternative supplier in case you have a problem with the suggested supplier? (Keep in mind that if you do have a problem with a supplier, you are free to change suppliers).
  • Think about whether you are able to do each of the following activities. If not, how will you get help? (Home health aides are available if necessary. Whether to hire your own or use an agency becomes the next question. The Survivorship A to Z document in "To Learn More" helps.)
    • Bathing, dressing, using the bathroom, climbing stairs
    • Cooking, food shopping, house cleaning, paying bills
    • Going to doctors' appointments, picking up prescription drugs
  • Review your health insurance to determine what will be paid for, and what won't. Think about who is the best person to negotiate with the health insurer for you to get payment for the services you need that may not be covered.
  • Ask to speak with a social worker if you or your family are having difficulty coping with your health condition. (And see Survivorship A to Z information about coping with emotions. See "To Learn More.")
  • When you should have a first follow-up doctor's appointment. If transportation is difficult for you, ask about transportation. (Set the appointment before you leave the hospital).
  • For emergency contact name/phone number
  • For answers to any other questions you may have.

Discuss any home preparation that may be necessary during your recovery.  For example, you may wish to convert a downstairs room into your bedroom, get a shower chair, an elevated toilet seat, or move furniture and loose rugs.

Find out if you are likely to require additional physical therapy, home nursing care or additional treatments or services.  The hospital will need adequate time to assist with the arrangements.

Confirm with the discharge planner which services will be covered by your insurance. If some services are not covered, the discharge planner should be able to provide you with additional information and resources.    

To Learn More

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