Have you or a loved one recently been hospitalized?
While at the hospital, the care team focuses on diagnosing and treating the condition, until the patient is well enough to continue recovery at home.
There is a syndrome thought, known as post-hospital syndrome, that affects many once they have left the hospital to continue the recovery process. It is defined as a time of vulnerability, lasting up to seven weeks after a patient is discharged from the hospital. During this time the patient is at increased risk of rehospitaliation or, in extreme cases, death. For example, someone who was hospitalized for pneumonia, may have lingering effects of the condition, that include fatigue, reduced strength, or constipation.
There are several things that patients and their loved ones can do, both during hospitalization and after discharge, to prevent or minimize the effects of post-hospital syndrome.
Here are 9 things they can do:
1. During and after hospitalization, have a family member, friend, or colleague be the designated person to advocate for care and support, where needed. The advocate will be familiar with your care team and could be included in meetings concerning your treatment and care.
2. Ensure there is an updated list of medications and bring it to the hospital when being admitted. After admission, it is important to regularly review this list and keep it updated so as to prevent any medication errors.
3. If you or your hospitalized loved one regularly use hearing aids, dentures, mobility aids, eyeglasses or a cane or walker, bring these to the hospital. Label them and keep them in a safe and accessible location during the hospital stay.
4. Try to maintain a daily routine at the hospital that is close to the schedule outside the hospital. A good idea would be to inform the clinical staff of this daily routine.
5. Keep active, even if at a reduced level. After being cleared by the medical team, try to spend as little time in the hospital bed as possible. This is because lying in a bed all day could result in issues with blood flow, muscle loss, and further weakness and fatigue.
6. Make sure to rest during the evenings. This will help to promote and maintain your body's natural circadian rhythm.
7. Health care proxy. Assign a trusted advocate (relative or friend) as your health care proxy. This person has the legal standing to communicate your health care preferences to your medical team, in the event that you are unable to do so yourself. Discuss your medical care preferences with your health care proxy in advance.
8. Ensure there is a follow-up plan. Before leaving the hospital, confirm you have timely follow-up appointments scheduled with your primary care doctor and appropriate specialists.
9. Maintain your normal diet. If you require special dietary accommodations, such as low salt, lactose free, gluten free, or vegetarian, inform your doctors and nurses, and reconfirm these requirements when you order meals.
Of course, it may not be possible to avoid all the potential causes and issues of post-hospital syndrome. But keeping in mind these 9 tips may significantly reduce the possibility of experiencing major difficulties after hospitalization.