Preventing Hospitalizations and Re-hospitalizations
Hospitals are wonderful when you need them. There is no doubt, however, that it’s better to stay healthy to begin with. No matter the skill of doctors and nurses, a health crisis is difficult. It’s hard for older adults to bounce back. And many never quite bounce back to where they were before they were hospitalized.
Preventing unnecessary hospitalizations, therefore, is one way to help your aging parents stay healthy and independent for as long as possible.
And if a hospitalization has occurred, increasing the chance of a stable recovery is a great way to avoid the setback of a re-hospitalization.
Here are ways to help your loved one manage his or her health conditions effectively:
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Stay abreast of the medication schedule
Help your family member organize his or her medications so it’s easy to take the right ones at the right time. (See our article about managing medications.) Bring the medications to each doctor’s visit and make sure they are all still pertinent and that there are no conflicts. If a change in medication is advised, find out how that affects the others. Are there any conflicts? Any existing prescriptions that can or should be dropped? When should the new medicine be taken? How long should it be taken? Any side effects? Because medications change frequently, come up with a way to easily know/look up the most current schedule. See the suggestions to help you and your loved one keep track in our article about managing medications.
What method do you use to track medications? How do you keep the list up to date?
Rehospitalizations are unfortunately very common. Although your loved one may have been released to home, that doesn’t mean he or she is totally “out of the woods.” While your relative is still in the hospital, find out what doctor(s) he or she should see afterward for follow-up. Request that the hospital forward records to all of them. Before you leave the hospital, call the doctor’s office to set up an appointment for the next week. You may need to be firm with the doctor’s receptionist. Explain that your loved one has just been hospitalized and needs to have a follow-up appointment to be sure he or she is not getting worse.
Which doctor is the most appropriate to see for a follow-up? The primary care physician? A specialist?
Once a diagnosis has been made, find out more about the illness. Ask the doctor to explain it so you understand what parts of the body are having trouble and why. If there are terms you don’t understand, ask for clarification. You can also look up your loved one’s condition on Medline Plus for seniors. This website is published by the National Library of Medicine. It has large type and is written in easy-to-understand language. You might also wish to look at our article about educating yourself.
Do you have questions about your loved one’s condition? What resources might you consult to help you find answers? The doctor? The discharge planner? The Internet?
Ask the doctor to group symptoms as “green light” for normal recovery, “yellow light” for early signs of a possible problem, and “red light” for a significant problem. Find out what to do and who to call in case of yellow light or red light symptoms.
Do you feel confident in your ability to spot a problem developing? If not, ask the health care staff for help.
Many chronic conditions improve dramatically with changes in diet or exercise. Stopping smoking is one of the bigger lifestyle changes that can improve health and keep your loved one out of the hospital. But these changes are not easy. And nagging will only build resentment. In the spirit of collaboration, however, you can still support your loved one to make what changes he or she can. Even little steps add up. Consider reading our article about supporting a family member to change in “Your Changing Role.”
Falls and car accidents. Injury is a common cause of hospitalization for older adults, in particular, falls and automobile accidents. See our articles about preventing falls and driving safely.
Medications. Problems with medication frequently result in a fall and therefore injury. Taking too many pills, not the right ones, or taking them in the wrong combination can cause your family member to feel dizzy and lose balance. Helping him or her manage medications well is a great way to reduce the risk of injury and hospitalization.
Burns. Burns are an unexpected source of injury for seniors, but are in fact the second leading cause of injury death for older adults.
Burns can come from house fires—nearly half of which start in the kitchen—or from scalding water. Older adults have thinner skin, so they burn easier and do not recover as readily.
Reduced sensitivity in older adults can cause them not to react quickly when there is a problem, so they are exposed to the heat for longer and sustain a more serious burn. For instance, all it takes is 3 seconds of exposure to water that is 140° to cause a burn serious enough to require surgery.
Ways to prevent burns
Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries regularly.
Set water heaters to no more than 120° (a bit less than the medium setting).
Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
Have an escape plan with alternate routes in case of a fire.
Never leave the kitchen when frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food.
Turn pot handles so they face the back of the stove.
Wear short-sleeved shirts or close-fitting sleeves when cooking.
Have falls been a problem in the past? Do you have concerns about your relative’s driving? Are there precautions you can take about burns?
While searching for a reputable organization to perform a PRI for my 95 year old Dad I reached out to Aging Well Rochester.Marsha Raines returned my call immediately (I left messages with others and waited a few days) she put me in touch with her nurse Jodi Limner who scheduled a no non sense quick appointment at a very reasonable cost (others had a higher price plus travel charges).I would highly recommend Aging Well Rochester with your elder care!!
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Marsha was so helpful during the time when my elderly father was ill. Every time I reached out via email or voice mail, she returned my messages almost immediately, within the same day, even when it was after working hours. She helped my family cut through the conflicting information that I was getting from various sources regarding elder care in the Rochester, NY area. I feel that we were able to save time and focus on the important things after meeting with her. So grateful.
My conversation with Ms. Raines was extremely useful. My life presented an opportunity to learn very quickly about assisted living options in the Rochester area. After a detailed conversation, she was able to recommend three sites which fit our needs. Without her help, we'd still be looking at sites and not be able to focus our efforts on the details of actually moving.
I continue to be so grateful for the care and expertise that we received from Marsha, Sue, Ester and the rest of the team at Aging Well Rochester for our Mom. It was such a relief to know that we could count on them to provide kind, warm support to all of us. The other thing that was so important was their knowledge and understanding of the different options available to us and the best ways to work with other professionals in the field of elder care. We can’t thank them enough!
Marsha was a HUGE support in helping our family find quality care for my Mom who has Dementia. She took the time to answer our questions and concerns with respect and compassion. I am glad that we got to meet with her. She’s put a lot of my family’s concerns at ease and is always there if we need her. I wish more people acted with kindness such as this in the medical field - the world would be a better place!
Thank the good Lord that my wife researched and was able to find Aging Well Rochester and Marsha Raines when my daughter suffered a serious stroke. We had moved to Florida three years earlier and it was not possible to visit her and help with the needed healthcare management.Marsha and Jodi were there to guide us through the process to insure that she could be placed in a facility that could properly provide the care she needed. Given the healthcare crisis in this country, this was not an easy process.They were there each step in securing the best possible care and provided relief from the guilt we felt being so far away from Rochester. The compassion and professionalism of Marsha and Jodi were second to none. We are so very grateful for the service they provided throughout.
I reached out to Marsha @ Aging Well Rochester at a critical point when my dad was hospitalized and needed advice and assistance with coordinating next steps. Within 48 hours, I had had an in depth initial consult with Marsha, agreed to retain her services, and she made calls and was able for me to put in motion a tour and his eventual placement at a wonderful and caring Hospice facility.After my dad's passing, Jennifer worked with my mom over the next few months as she adjusted to all the changes. She was kind and compassionate and very knowledgeable on the process my mom was going through.I would recommend Aging Well Rochester for straight forward advice and counsel to anyone who is feeling "lost" in the confusion and maze of options with aging loved ones.
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Our family worked with Marsha Raines of Aging Well Rochester at a crucial moment when our mother was experiencing a decline in her physical capacities after living on her own for most of her adult life. Marsha was our guiding light throughout the process: explaining, with compassion, the various options for Mom; guiding us through the application process for both rehab and long-term care; and ultimately, settling Mom in at her wonderful new home where she is safe, comfortable and happy. I wholeheartedly recommend Aging Well Rochester!
Was connect with Marsha from Aging Well Rochester while searching for assistance with understanding the system and what is needed for elder parent. Marsha provided me with information, guidance, and took the time to explain differences between assisted living, independent living, and what questions to ask while interviewing for a new home for my mother. Valuable information. Marsha continues to follow up to assist if needed. Very pleased and so glad found Aging Well at a crazy time.
Coming to grips with a parent's decline and figuring out how to meet their needs can be a terribly stressful ordeal. Marsha and her team made it vastly less so. Marsha's calm demeaner, wisdom and professionalism were invaluable during the 8 months during which my father's needs were rapidly changing. She has a wealth of knowledge about resources available in the community and was able to bring them to bear quickly. I will be eternally grateful for the emotional support she provided during the entire journey.
At a time when you don't know what you don't know, Marcia knows! She asks the right questions, narrows the choices, and provides direction. She definitely helped us feel more confident as we moved forward, and she was thoughtful enough to follow up to be sure we were making progress. Highly recommend.
Marsha and staff were exceptional in their guidance though the difficult and unfamiliar journey of finding quality care for our aging parents. For over three years, they were able to anticipate needs, advocate for our parents, and provide support for them through various crises. We are so thankful for their expertise and compassion through all the changes. We highly recommend Aging Well Rochester to anyone seeking help with aging loved ones.
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Marsha Raines was incredible--responsive, caring and very knowledgeable. She helped me navigate options and provided excellent counsel. I highly recommend Aging Well to you if you are facing a difficult and emotional situation with a loved one who needs ongoing medical/rehabilitation placement and services. Marsha exceeded my expectations. Christine L.
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Marsha understands the world of aging and the decisions that need to be made. She has both the education and experience to navigate a complex system to secure the best care as well as the expertise to guide throughout the process. My wife and I are grateful for her depth of knowledge, experience, skill, and compassion. We plan to use her as a resource for years to come!
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