How to recover smoothly from a hospital stay
By Alison Stanton
Late one night last summer, Tom Engelhardt fell in his apartment.
“I hit my head against the counter and scraped my arm,” says Tom, 92.
“I was a bloody mess, and I couldn’t get off the floor, so I had to call 911. The medics recommended that I go to the emergency department (ED), so they took me there.”
While Tom was on his way to the ED, Barbara Mason, executive director for Sun Health at Home, received word that he was being taken to the hospital.
Barbara, who was on call that night, headed to the hospital to assist Tom during his stay.
After being examined, Tom was sent back for a CT scan. When he returned to the exam room, he was pleasantly surprised to find Barbara sitting there.
“She stayed with me and gave me moral support while they patched me up,” says Tom, who is a widower with no children.
Tom received staples in his head, and his arm was cleaned and bandaged. Around midnight, he was ready to go home, so Barbara gave him a lift.
Barbara says she was happy to be there for Tom and advocate for him during his stay in the ED.
“He kept saying ‘I can’t believe you are here — this program really does everything it says.’”
The following morning, Barbara checked up on Tom.
“He thought he was unable to take a shower, but I reminded him that the doctor said it would be OK but to be careful when washing his hair,” Barbara says.
Linda Esparza, BSN, RN, a Wellness Coordinator for Sun Health at Home, also called Tom the day after his fall to be sure he had read through his post-discharge paperwork.
Understandably, she says, Tom was tired from his ordeal the previous night.
“We went over the instructions that were given by the ED to be sure Tom was doing everything he needed to do in a timely manner, especially as it related to care of his wound,” Linda says.
Tips for a successful recovery
As Linda notes, whether it’s a hospital stay, an observation stay, or an ED visit, there are actions people can take to ensure a successful recovery at home, and avoid returning to the hospital. Here is a brief list of recovery tips:
As soon as you return home from the hospital, change your clothes and wash your hands to avoid spreading germs to your home. You may need some assistance, depending on your condition. Maintain good hand-washing hygiene during your recovery, especially if you have a wound or are at risk of infection.
Read your discharge instructions thoroughly and share with your family members, noting signs and symptoms that everyone should watch for. If you have any questions about the instructions, call the hospital or ED and seek clarification.
Pay specific attention to medication instructions. Are you supposed to discontinue any medications, either on a short-term or ongoing basis? Were any new medications prescribed? If so, get them filled as soon as possible.
Make recommended follow-up appointments right away. Be sure to tell the office that you were recently hospitalized when you call for an appointment. Physician follow-up is very important after any hospital visit so the doctor can monitor you.
Stay hydrated and monitor whether your bowel and bladder movements are regular. Dehydration or constipation from pain medications are common post-hospital issues and need to be addressed promptly.
If you experience any new symptoms such as redness or discharge from a wound, fever, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, report them to your primary care physician immediately.
It helps to have support
Family members or friends who are willing to lend a hand can help patients recover sooner and more smoothly.
The support of Sun Health at Home team members helped Tom get back on his feet.
“Having someone at your side and advocating for you is so important in health care,” Barbara says. “Nothing can replace that.”