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Planning for a hospital stay

As we age our health can naturally decline and it becomes more common to spend time in hospital – whether it is following surgery, an emergency admission or to ensure a long-term health condition is being managed appropriately.

Last updated: January 19th 2024
Planning before you are admitted to hospital will make it a less stressful, more comfortable experience. [Source: Unsplash]

Planning before you are admitted to hospital will make it a less stressful, more comfortable experience. [Source: Unsplash]

Key points

  • Hospital stays can be stressful and uncomfortable, but planning ahead can make your stay a better experience
  • Having all your health information handy to provide to hospital staff can be helpful
  • You should also have an overnight bag ready to go, and plan for transition care if you need it to regain your independence

Hospital trips can be stressful, particularly if they are unexpected, and uncomfortable because you are spending time away from home in an unfamiliar environment.

But planning ahead in case you do need to visit hospital can take away some of the stress and make the trip more comfortable for you and your loved one or carer.

This article explains the factors you need to think about when planning ahead so that you can create a plan which works for you.

Sharing information

The more information you have organised and collated to give to hospital staff, the better.

If you have a health condition that is not related to your hospital visit, for example, if you are having knee surgery but also have diabetes, you should provide this information as early as possible so that hospital staff can factor it into your care.

In an emergency, you may not be able to tell hospital staff about your health conditions, mobility issues, or if you have a diagnosis of dementia, so having all of this recorded in an easy and accessible way can help to give hospital staff the information they need to give you the best possible care.

Your emergency information should include:

  • Your health conditions
  • Any medications and prescriptions you have
  • Your contact details
  • Your emergency person’s contact details
  • Any other health and wellbeing information you want to include, such as impaired mobility, assistive technology you rely on or mental health challenges you experience

Keep this bundle of information in a place that is easy to find, such as on the fridge, and tell your close contacts about it so that they can provide it to the hospital if you are unable to.

You will need to update the information if anything changes, such as your medication or emergency contact person’s details.

If you are unsure what information you might need to prepare in case of a hospital stay, talk to your regular doctor.

Support during a hospital stay

You might need to plan ahead for some of the supports you would like to have during your hospital stay.

Think about what would make you feel more comfortable and safe and plan for these supports to be in place before you go into hospital. This can be particularly helpful if you are aware that this hospital stay will be longer than a couple of days.

For example, if your first language is not English or you predominately use Auslan you might like to book an interpreter to translate during conversations with a doctor or specialist.

Or you might like to have a close friend or particular family member present for these conversations and need to let them know that you would like for them to be there.

It might even make you more comfortable to have an overnight bag that is always packed and ready to go in case of an emergency hospital admission.

This bag could hold a change of clothes and fresh underwear, a toothbrush, a good book or puzzle book to keep you occupied, and spare batteries for assistive technology you use, such as hearing aids.

Planning for when you leave hospital

A key part of planning for your hospital stay may be the planning you need to ensure you can confidently leave hospital, known as discharge planning.

The reasons for discharge planning are:

  • To make sure that you have the right care or support when you leave hospital
  • To make sure that the services you need are coordinated
  • To give you a better experience of care
  • To reduce the length of stays in hospital by providing some recovery or care in another setting – like at home or in a residential facility
  • To reduce the chance of an unplanned return to hospital

Discharge planning is different for each person, so the more hospital staff know about your everyday needs, communication needs and other factors which might affect your health, the better the planning can be.

Planning can involve identifying services, equipment and follow-up appointments that may be needed to make sure you are safely transitioned out of hospital and also ensuring that the services which support you with regular everyday tasks, such as meals and personal care, can start as soon as you are home.

As an older person, once you leave hospital you may be eligible for, and benefit from, transition care, which can be included in your discharge planning.

Transition care is short term support and assistance to improve your independence so you can return to living confidently in the community.

For more information on whether you might benefit from transition care and what services this can include, read our article, ‘Do I need transition care?

Family members, carers and doctors, nurses or specialists can be involved in your discharge planning so that everyone understands what needs to be done to help you.

When you are ready to be discharged this could also involve organising your transport home.

You can learn more about the discharge process in our article, ‘What is the role of a hospital discharge planner?

What kinds of planning have you done for emergency or planned trips away from home? Tell us in the comments below.

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