Healing at Home
You get the call that mom is coming home from the hospital and questions and emotions flood your mind. Is the house ready? Will she be safe there? Who will provide care while she recovers? Can dad really help her to the bathroom at night? How will she make it upstairs to go to bed? Can I afford to take time off of work to get her settled? Is mom going to be able to manage new medications?
For the aging loved one and their family, coming home from the hospital can be a relief and overwhelming all at the same time. However, whether your loved one is recovering from a surgery, a fall, or an extended illness, coming home may be just what the doctor ordered. Understanding the benefits of recovering at home and tips and resources available to your family is the first step to turning a stressful situation into a manageable one.
The Advantages of Healing at Home
Reduced Risk of Infections
One of the biggest risks of prolonged hospitalization is something known as HAI, or Hospital Acquired Infections. These are infections that patients acquire while receiving treatments in the hospital. Because the individual may already have reduced resistance, they can be extremely vulnerable to bacterial or fungal infections. The CDC estimates that 1.7 million hospital-associated infections contribute to or cause patient deaths each year. The most common types of hospital wide infection are urinary tract infection, surgical site infection and bloodstream infection and pneumonia. While the home is not a perfectly sterile environment, there is a lower concentration of bacteria and less opportunity for spreading infections from patient to patient.
TIP: When bringing a loved one home from the hospital, it is important that they are cared for in a clean environment. Make sure that the linens, garments, and the general area of the recovering loved one are very well cleaned. Prepare appropriate equipment to assist with daily tasks of living such as bathing and toileting to make sure that they are able to care for their bodies safely.
The Power of Sleep
Sleep is the body’s time to rebuild, restore, and rejuvenate. Naturally, it is most important to have quality sleep to recover from a serious injury or illness. However, the hospital environment is not conducive to restorative sleep. Light, constant interruptions, talking, equipment sounds, and restrictive beds can cause long term sleep deprivation which can slow down the recovery process.
TIP: Many times in multi-level homes, the master bedroom is upstairs and may be unsafe or too isolating for your loved one to stay in. Consider setting up a defined temporary sleeping space that is on the main level with a close bathroom and access to the kitchen and outside. This may be a den or an extra bedroom. The space should be able to be dark and quiet for quality sleep and close to family members for quick response if something is needed in the night. Often a baby monitor is an effective way to communicate if assistance is needed in the night.
Being among loved ones and having regular positive interactions with family and friends can be an incredible motivator during the recovery process. On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs you will find the need for love and belonging just after food and safety.
TIP: It is important to balance rest with social interaction as your loved one is recovering. Making scheduled time for visitors to come by is an important way to slowly reengage them with family and friends. Consider moving a family dinner to the home of your recovering loved one. Set up a game night or movie night at the home giving your recovering loved one a chance to see friends and family for a set period of time.
A Rhythm to the Day
Often in a hospital setting, the days can blur together without a set schedule. Eating and sleeping patterns are often thrown off by tests, recovery, and the schedule of the hospital staff. Coming home can mean a chance to retrain your body’s clock and get an individual routine going again. One of the best signs that the recovery process is well under way is when an individual takes interest in food, activities, people, humor and other important things that fill the day.
TIP: Setting a regular schedule in the home can be an important tool in retraining the body’s rhythms and reengaging with life. Try and avoid napping during the day as much as possible to give your body a better chance at deep restorative sleep during the night. Eating small meals regularly throughout the day may be much more appetizing than two or three big meals. This will also keep your energy steady throughout the day rather than experiencing dips in energy.
The Landscape of Home
We cannot overestimate the power of our environment to affect our attitude, our emotions, and even the way we heal. Being in our own surroundings with our loved ones, memories, art, music, and landscapes are among the greatest assets of recovering at home. These surroundings remind us of who we are and help us to mentally rise to the challenge of getting well.
TIP: Access to fresh air and sunshine can be incredibly therapeutic, especially for individuals suffering from depression. Walking 3-5 times a week, when appropriate, has enormous benefits for body, mind, and spirit. A healthy dose of Vitamin D while building up muscle strength, increasing stability, and releasing endorphins is such a gift to a healing body.
Asking for Help
One of the most important things to remember when helping a loved one transition from the hospital to recovering at home is that you don’t have to do it all on your own. Seeking out professional services for a loved one can be just as much a gesture of solidarity as providing care yourself. As professionals, many adult children feel guilty that they are not able to leave work and care for a recovering parent. While this is common, it is certainly not a burden you should be carrying alone. Know your options for short and long-term care in the home.
There are two important options that you need to be aware of for a loved one who is recovering at home: In-Home Care services and Care Management. A Certified Nursing Assistant provides care in the home and assists with activities of daily living such as dressing, meal preparation and grocery shopping, running errands, laundry and cleaning, bathing and toileting, medication reminders, and transportation to doctor’s appointments. Their hours and services are customizable to the needs of your loved one, so as they get better they can use fewer services. Whether the need is for 24 hour live-in care or a few hours a week, Home Care is a cost effective option for recovery care because of its scalability.
A Care Manager is a wonderful asset to families in transition. As experts in eldercare, their RN or MSW training equips them to be a guide to aging adults and their families. Whether it is advocating for a patient in the hospital, managing medications at home, or navigating the insurance and healthcare maze, they are able to get the answers and guidance you need. They can also provide coaching to the family and advise on modifications to the home and other safety measures that may be necessary. Whether you are managing a crisis or engaged in long-term planning for the future, they are a professional eldercare resource that you want in your corner. You can find a Certified Professional Geriatric Care manager anywhere in the United States by visiting www.CareManager.org.
Published on August 7, 2013.