Home Health: Easing Transitions

While we always hope for our older friends and loved ones to stay health and out of the hospital, at some point they may need serious medical care or an operation that requires them to stay. Whether they had a short visit at the hospital or an extended stay, one’s home is very different from the hospital and while we assume that things will immediately go back to normal when geriatric patients return home, it is typically not an easy transition.

First, there is a major difference in the environment in the hospital versus the home. At home, patients do not have the same nurses and trained medical personnel providing around-the-clock care. In addition, most areas of the hospital are designed to cater to a patient’s needs, which is usually not the case at home. Because of this, home health nurses providing care or house calls can help to keep the geriatrics patient healthy and stable while relearning to operate in the home.

Another reason that home health care is vital in aiding the transition for geriatric care patients is the “revolving door” effect. This rampant trend refers to the tendency for geriatrics patients to be readmitted into the hospital within 30 days of their previous stay, According to Renata Gelman, RN, B.S.N., “one in five older patients is back at the hospital within 30 days of leaving. ” With the use of home health care, the revolving door effect is minimized due to their ability to “fill the gap as caregivers, ” helping to prevent readmission.

Another contributing factor to the “revolving door” effect is the lack of communication between patients, nurses and doctors – resulting in the patient missing out on the most effective level of care and recovery. To alleviate this barrier, home health nurses closely monitor the patient for signs that their condition is worsening or changing, caring for them accordingly and communicating with their primary doctors and nurses. In the case of a necessary change in a treatment plan, the home health nurse can get the patient a new medication or care tactic.

Communication is not only key between home health nurses and doctors, but also between the patient and their entire health care team. This is a key role for home health in the transition process – helping the patient and their family to understand their condition and the role they play in their or their family member’s recovery.
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