Tips to help avoid a preventable return trip to the hospital

Patients too often leave the hospital without knowing how to care for themselves, leading to a preventable return. Here are tips to improve your chances of a successful recovery at home:

Be sure you understand your illness, and the care you received in the hospital.

Ask if you will require help at home. Can you bathe yourself? Climb stairs? Will you need bandages changed or shots? If so, do you have a caregiver to help, or will you need to arrange a visiting nurse?

Repeat back your care instructions to those who give them, to be sure you understand them.

Ask for a written discharge plan that lists your medical conditions, your treatments, and the plan for your ongoing care.

Get a list of all medications, how to use them, and what to do if you experience side effects. Be sure to ask whether to continue medications you were taking before this hospitalization.

Ask what symptoms suggest you’re getting worse and what to do if that happens, especially at night or during the weekend.

What follow-up appointments will you need and when? Ask if your hospital will make the appointments for you, and send your records.

Do you have transportation home, to follow-up appointments, and to the drugstore?

If you have a regular physician, make sure the hospital sends a report of your hospital stay.

If you are uninsured or will have difficulty affording prescriptions, a hospital discharge planner or social worker may be able to link you to community resources that can help.

Get a name and number to call if questions about your hospitalization or discharge arise.

Sources: The Associated Press; Dr. Eric Coleman, University of Colorado; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Journal of the American Medical Association.

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