Help Make Sure Your Loved One’s Hospital Stay is NOT a Round Trip

Little known fact: 20–30% of all patients end up back in the hospital within a month. Often, it’s because they don’t get their prescriptions filled or get to their follow-up doctor appointments. Sometimes patients ignore signs of health problems after a hospital stay, hoping they’ll just “go away” or they don’t want to be a “bother”.

Yet another fact: a study at Yale revealed that 3 out of 4 older discharged patients leave the hospital with the wrong prescription, or they don’t fully understand their new medication regimen. Also worrisome is the fact that they don’t understand what to do about the old prescriptions waiting for them at home. Frankly, medication management is a complicated mess for most patients! They need your help to keep them all straight — and to take them all safely.

Use a shared calendar system (like Google’s) to organize friends and family to:

  • Make sure your loved one gets to follow-up doctor visits (critical!)
  • Have prescriptions filled
  • Make sure that someone else (besides your loved one) knows about all meds and is working with your loved one to ensure they are taken properly
  • Follow up on any tests and their results
  • Checks in with your loved one every day for at least a month to watch for signs of problems

And if you sense anything is wrong, trust your gut and get your loved one in to see their main doctor right away — before it may turn into an emergency trip back to the hospital. No one wants that kind of travel!

Medication Management is a Hot Mess!

Too many patients end up back in the hospital in just a few weeks. Often, it’s because they miss their follow up doctor’s appointments or can’t get to the drug store to get prescribed medicines.

And, too, a recent Yale study revealed that fully 75% of patients aged 65/older don’t understand their medication routine after leaving the hospital — or they get an incorrect prescription at discharge. This problem is not likely limited to seniors: numerous other studies have confirmed that patients forget up to 80% of what their doctors and nurses tell them, and this doesn’t change at discharge.

No wonder about 20% of patients end up back in the hospital!

So what can you do to help prevent a round trip back to the hospital?

  • Make sure your loved one gets the correct medications filled.
  • During the hospital stay, don’t be afraid to ask nurses or doctors to help you plan for care post-discharge — that’s part of their job, and they’ll be glad to know you’re thinking ahead.
  • On the day of discharge, don’t hesitate to ask questions until every detail is crystal clear and take good notes. (It’s OK to ask for as much time as you need to “get it right.”)
  • Go over meds your loved one was taking when admitted and those prescribed going forward. Discuss changes – understand why for each one.
  • For every medication, ask:
    • What is this for?
    • What are the signs it’s working? What are the symptoms it’s not working?
    • What are the potential side effects?
    • How does this work with other meds taken (even vitamins, herbal supplements, drugstore-type aids)? Are they safe together?
    • Any limitations for activity and diet?
    • Who should we call if we have more questions or concerns? (Note: www.WebMD.com is a good source of medication info, and it’s always a good idea to double-check these details. WebMD offers a free app, too.)
  • If your loved one is 65 or older, look up every prescribed drug to see if it’s on the Beers list of “caution” medications for older adults. If you find one of these prescribed for your loved one, be sure to bring this to the doctor’s attention.
  • Help your loved one create a good, safe system for managing medications at home. Think about special pillboxes, apps, alarms, and checklists… anything that makes it easier to take meds safely. (If you are stumped for ideas, ask your pharmacist.)
  • Check in with your loved one frequently, at least once a day for at least a month after discharge. Be on alert for signs of trouble.
  • If you have any concerns whatsoever, don’t hesitate to call a doctor.

All of these details can be daunting, but you are so smart to be proactive. It’s downright scary when patients of any age don’t have a handle on their medication instructions: now you know how to help!

When it comes to managing medications, the old saying “It’s better to be safe than sorry” couldn’t be timelier.