If you find yourself in the hospital for an illness, injury or planned procedure, it can be very exciting when your physician finally tells you that you can go home. It’s important to prepare for your return home to make sure your transition is successful.  

How do you keep your home safe? What can you do if there’s a problem? We’ve outlined how to help you get home and back on your feet safely.

Doctor signing discharge papers for a female patient

Before You Head Home

After your hospital stay, you may not be able to get around as well as you once did, and you may even need assistance. With that in mind, take a moment to assess your home.

  • Practice using a cane, walker, crutches, or a wheelchair before leaving the hospital, if you can. It is especially important to practice the correct ways to:
    • ―Sit down to use the toilet and stand up after using the toilet
    • ―Get in and out of the shower
    • ―Use the shower chair
    • ―Go up and down stairs
  • Ask your doctor if there are specific foods you should try to eat or avoid eating. Then, ask a loved one or friend if they can help you get groceries before heading home.
  • Make a list of your medications, when you should take them and what dosage. Then organize your medication in a pillbox so your loved ones can help you take the correct medicine at the correct time.
  • Confirm bathing instructions with your doctor—should you sponge bath, shower or take a tub bath? Are there any special instructions if you have an incision site or wound?

Preparations to Make Your First Day

  • If possible, enter your home without climbing steps. If you need to climb steps, ask a neighbor, friend or loved one if they could be available to provide assistance if needed, and make sure the handrails are secure and a light can be turned on from the top and the bottom of the stairs.
  • Set up a “command center” near the chair you will be using most often, even though you need to try to get back up and moving around. Make sure to keep your phone near, all remotes needed and a water bottle to stay hydrated.
  • Make sure everything you need is easy to get to and on the same floor where you will spend most of your time. Consider setting up a temporary bedroom on the main level if you must climb stairs to reach your bedroom. Make sure a bathroom is available, ideally on the same floor as well.
  • Pets that are small or very active may cause you to trip or fall. For the first few weeks you are home, consider having your pet stay elsewhere (such as with a friend, in a kennel, or in the yard).
  • Remove small throw rugs, and make sure area rugs have non-slip backing or are taped down with double-sided tape, especially along the edges.
  • Be sure a telephone is easily accessible in each room of the main living areas. If using a cordless phone or cell phone, be sure the charger is easily accessible and the phone is fully charged.
  • Sit on a bath or shower chair when taking a shower, or install additional grab bars if you can stand. Place a non-skid bath mat outside the shower to keep the floor dry and to help you maintain your footing. 

Although you probably will not experience any unusual problems or complications after you return home, it is important to be aware of potential signs and symptoms you should share with your care team.

If you experience any of the following, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Excessive pain
  • A fall or inability to get up

If you have concerns about yourself or a loved one returning home, and think more assistance may be needed, ask your care team about home health services. Medicare and many private insurance policies cover this type of care. With home health, highly skilled nurses and therapists can help you:

  • Get back on your feet
  • Monitor symptoms and help keep your doctor informed about your condition
  • Manage medications and teach on how they work
  • Create a plan for managing your specific conditions such as COPD, diabetes or heart failure

If you have healthcare questions, call 1.866.KINDRED to speak with one of our Registered Nurses 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For a complete guide to returning home after the hospital, email thekindredspirit@kindred.com