Transitioning from Hospital to Home


It’s time to bring a loved one home from the hospital after surgery or illness. Whether their home recovery time will be relatively brief or extended, there are several things you can do to make the transition smooth. Here are six “Ps” to keep in mind when preparing for patient care at home.

Prepare the Home – Think safety and comfort as you get the patient’s living space ready for his or her arrival home. The first step is to move rugs and power cords that could impede movement or present a safety risk. Reduce clutter to make room for special equipment such as a hospital bed, wheelchair or easy chair, commode and oxygen supply.  Will you need special bedding or support pillows? You may need to make adjustments for safety accessories such as a ramp, shower stool, hand grips or walker.  Create a space for anyone who may be providing care, with a comfortable chair, table and place for personal items. Set up an “info central” area for all communication related to the patients’ care. This can be a bulletin board, notebook and pens to jot notes and keep records about medication, etc. 

Personal Supplies – Make a list of supplies you will need at home.  Protective gloves and wipes will make clean-up easier.  Special bathing supplies and equipment are available for those confined to bed. Consider the need for special skin care items, diapers and specialty items that will be needed.

People to contact – Organize names and phone numbers for doctors, pharmacists, representatives from a home care agency, and others you may need to call. This list can be prominently displayed on a bulletin board. A directory of business cards is helpful as well.

Prescriptions - During the patient’s hospital stay, medications may have changed.  There may be new medications, and old medications may be discontinued or dosages may have changed. Make a list of the current medications and discard ones that have been discontinued – ask what each medication is for, when and how much should be taken, and ask about side effects and reactions that may occur. See if any of the medications must be taken with food. Note when each should be refilled. Make a special space to store medications and dispensers.

Patient Care – Your hospital discharge team will review patient care procedures and help decide what the patient can do, and what he or she may need help with. They will show you how to use equipment, and help you get comfortable with any procedures such as changing bandages or giving shots. 

Precautions, Signs & Symptoms – Ask what adverse reactions there may be to medications, and what to look for as the patient recovers. Don’t be afraid to call the patient’s health care providers if anything looks amiss.

Taking some time to pre-plan and organize before you bring your loved one home can make the transition from hospital to home go more smoothly, for you and the patient.