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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

Surviving a relative's return home from hospital


November 28, 2016, by Pat Morden, Caregiver Exchange

A close relative is in hospital. As discharge nears, it becomes clear that a lot of care tasks will fall to you once the person returns home. You’re not sure you’re ready.

“Be honest and upfront about your concerns,” advises Kristina McLaughlin, a Community Care Access Centre care coordinator who works in a large London hospital. “If you don’t feel you’re being heard, ask to speak to the social worker.”

McLaughlin advises slowing the process down. “Keep in mind that your loved one is only going to be as confident in their safety and recovery as you are.” She suggests asking for a family meeting to deal with outstanding concerns. Consider bringing a friend or family member to the meeting to write down information, or ask a member of the hospital team to take notes for you.

But don’t forget to engage the patient in the planning. “It’s so easy to transition from making a plan with a person, to making a plan for a person,” she says. “Bringing patients more into the conversation generally produces better outcomes.”

If you’re worried about tasks you may need to do at home, such as wound care, transfers or injections, ask a member of hospital staff to teach you. McLaughlin suggests arranging for a time to watch the nurse do an injection or other task, and then have her watch you do it. “That way, the first time you do it isn’t at home on your own.” She adds that home care nurses and support workers can also provide training.

Other practical tips from McLaughlin:

Talking with health professionals:

  • Write down a list of questions as they come up during the hospital stay, and carry a notebook to jot down the answers.
  • Before leaving the hospital, ask the medical team what signs and symptoms you should be watching for. Call your CCAC nurse or Telehealth Ontario if you’re concerned about your patient.
  • Specialist appointments will be booked before the patient leaves the hospital, but make an appointment with the family doctor within two weeks of discharge. Have a folder or binder for all the brochures and handouts you receive in the hospital.


  • If medications have changed, a hospital nurse will explain the changes to you. Always ask for clarification if you’re confused or unsure.
  • Ask that new prescriptions be faxed to a pharmacy, and then delivered to your house.
  • Designate a specific place at home for medications. Use a lock box if you have safety concerns.

Getting things ready at home:

  • Get the house cleaned and organized, stock up on groceries, and put in any equipment your patient will need.
  • Consider setting up a “comfort zone” for your patient – a chair or couch with a table for snacks and meds, a telephone, and a television or radio.
  • If your patient is unable to move easily, ensure there is a way for care providers to get into your house when you’re not there.
McLaughlin adds that caregivers usually forget about caring for themselves when arranging for the return from hospital. “Be sure you have a plan in place for when you’re feeling exhausted,” she says. “Know who you can count on to help you out.”

Do you have caregiving questions and issues you’d like to see discussed in this space? Or do you have insights to share with caregivers? Please email us – we’d love to talk to you!

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After reading the segment regarding "surviving a relative's return home from rehab hospital from another nearby city, back to her preferred domicile, I "lucked" into many of the same concerns and questions I need to pose when my relative returns next week and what should be in place in anticipation of the safe return to a "New hospital setting that gears the family to attending to her long-term care needs in a one storey floor dwelling. I shall take advantage of the informative tips to assist and be the primary caregiver for my elderly relative. Thanks so much. Knowledge is Power as asking pertinent questions to the go-to people.