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Caring for Our Aging Loved Ones

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5 Things to Understand for Easier Hospital Transfers

July 06, 20233 min read

“You're being transferred to the nursing home today.

Please start getting ready .”

Says Your Loved One's Doctor

...... and then you wait for many hours.......

Every hospital discharge seems to be frustrating. When you're going home it's hard enough, but going to an unfamiliar Skilled Nursing Facility can make it even more unnerving.

Getting upset doesn't help anything or anyone. Understanding the process helps us not get upset.

To make things easier on everyone, here are 5 Things to Know to make this transfer easier on everyone:

1. A lot of the initial communication is via computer

 Like many other parts of modern life, most of the coordination of the transfer is done via computer portals. The Skilled Nursing Facility clicks to "win" the admission and then paperwork starts to flow. Sometimes, humans never talk to each other in the process.

This isn't fair and often isn't good - but it is the system. Accepting it helps to understand communication breakdowns.

2. Transfers are often late in the day and then you can't get needed supplies or services until the next day

We all know that discharge from the hospital is usually many hours after you're told "you're leaving today!" This is difficult enough when you're going home, but when you're going to another facility it can be downright horrible.

Be aware that there are some things that the nursing home cannot fix in this situation. For instance, some people require a Physical Therapy Evaluation before they're allowed to get out of bed, even to go to the bathroom. If you arrive after the therapists are gone, you have to wait. The nursing home does NOT have a choice here. Even if it's the weekend and you have to wait a whole day for a release to walk.

There are similar restrictions on some specialty supplies. If you need a special walker, for instance, the nursing home can't order it until you arrive. So, you have to wait until it's delivered after the order is placed after you're admitted. Again, this is annoying - but it's the way the system works.

3. Sometimes dinner is already finished.

Arriving late in the day is REALLY upsetting if you haven't had dinner and the nursing home is already done serving. But again, this is the way that nursing homes function.

If your loved one is admitted late in the day, make sure there's no diet restrictions with the nurse and then bring your loved one some food. They'll enjoy it and the nursing home will thank you.

4. There is no doctor on-site most of the time

I know it seems silly to say - but there's mostly nurses at nursing homes! Well, mostly nursing assistants, but you get the idea. Nursing homes can keep costs down by not having all of the personnel and equipment of a hospital. On of the types of people not around all the time are doctors.

That said, in most cases nurses can only enact the orders of a doctor. So, if you want the order for aspirin changed - the nurses can't do anything until the doctor approves it. And, the doctor isn't on-site. So there will be a delay. Again, understanding can help this be less frustrating.

5. It's just a long day

No matter what, a day that one transfers to or from any medical facility is frustrating, uncomfortable and long. Bring a book. Practice kindness. Stay hydrated and remember to eat. Assume everything will take 4 times longer than you think it will!

When all else fails - take more deep breaths!

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Our senior citizens often live far from family and frequently have difficulty functioning on their own.  It only takes a moment for a medical event to send this situation spiraling out of control.   Even for someone in excellent health, navigating the important health care decisions, the paperwork, and the process can be overwhelming. My many years of experience as part of an administrative team in nursing homes have shown me where seniors and their families struggle with the complexities of a system that baffles everyone!  

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