Knowing how to care for someone who has just been discharged from hospital can be difficult. We spoke to Sharon, one of our in-house team of Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants, to get her guidance and advice on what kinds of things you can expect.
What does a discharge procedure involve?
Hospital discharge procedures vary enormously, depending on local policies in the area that you live and on the type of hospital you are discharged from.
Discharge from an acute hospital setting (usually larger hospitals that deals with operations and medical emergencies) may discharge a person with equipment to help with safe toileting, such as a toilet seat with frame or a commode, and a bed lever or bed stick to help them get on and off the bed.
Discharge from community hospitals or from longer term units (stroke or cardio services) may also arrange for some minor adaptations to be done, such as grab rails by the toilet or stair rails, unless there is space to put a bed downstairs in which case they will ask the family or a handyperson service to arrange this.
What is the hospital responsible for when someone is discharged?
When hospitals discharge someone, they’re responsible for making sure that the person’s most basic needs are met – being safe in the home and having access to a toilet. Hospitals don’t need to ensure that a person can use the bath as this is not deemed as essential to discharge.
If a care package is needed, the hospital will ask Social Services to arrange for a carer to visit at appropriate times of the day to support the person being discharged with keeping clean and getting food and drinks.
What if someone needs help after being discharged?
Being discharged from hospital is a process. Hospitals have a duty to discharge a person who is deemed to be medically fit, for example, the hospital have fixed whatever the person was in hospital for. Rehabilitation usually happens in the community and is the responsibility of Social Services. Social Services can usually provide a care package for up to 6 weeks at no cost, following an assessment of the person’s functional ability and their finances. Unless a person has very specific social care needs, they will usually have to pay for some or all of the cost of a care package if they wish to continue receiving support in their home after this period.
Do you have any tips for helping to care for someone who’s just been discharged?
There are a variety of things you can do or get set up to help care for a loved one who has just been discharged from hospital – what you need to do will depend on the level of care they need.
- You may want to arrange to stay with them for a couple of days. This is so you can help them get back into a routine and to support them with making drinks, food, and making sure that they can move around their home safely. As their carer don’t try to do everything. If there are other family members or friends who can help you care for them, make a rota so that support is always available when needed
- Don’t take over – the person you’re caring for may want to try doing things independently
- If you’re unable to stay during the day, leave drinks in flasks or water bottles for them and ready prepared food that can be eaten cold or easily warmed in the microwave
- Make sure the person you’re caring for has access to a telephone that has quick dial numbers set up to contact you or other arranged support if they are at home on their own
- Remember that discharge and rehabilitation is a process and you may need to step back and allow the professionals to do their job while the process is on-going – you could prevent the person you care for reaching their full potential if you do everything for them. Instead, encourage and support them to do things for themselves where possible if it will help with regaining ability and confidence
If you’re buying equipment to support the person you care for, you can double-check that it’s appropriate for the intended use first by contacting our Expert Advice Service.
For more information about the hospital discharge responsibilities, please see the government guidance here.