February 2002

Relative helps elderly patient return home
People who are admitted to the hospital want to get back home as quickly as possible. However, they cannot be discharged until arrangements have been made for all of their follow-up care. The frail elderly in particular may have a hard time getting their needs met so they can go home. Sometimes it helps to have a friend or relative act as an advocate.

Angela, 83 years old, was admitted to the hospital with congestive heart failure. (Congestive heart failure is when your heart can't pump enough blood to the body's other organs. Fluid can collect in the lungs and interfere with breathing.) Angela was having trouble breathing. In addition, her diabetes got worse and she had to start getting insulin shots.

After two weeks she no longer needed hospital care but was too weak to care for herself. She was transferred to a nursing home to build up her strength and learn to give herself insulin shots.

Angela has been independent her whole life. She did not like being in a nursing home and wanted to go home. She felt she would get better faster in her familiar surroundings. She asked her niece to help.

The niece arranged for a hospital bed to be delivered to Angela's house. She also talked to the nurses and asked them to begin the insulin instruction immediately. The nurses wanted to take a few days to teach Angela to give herself the shots. At the insistence of her niece, however, Angela learned to administer insulin in a day. She was discharged to home with plans for a visiting nurse to check on her. Once home, Angela quickly improved.

It is hard to be sick. It is even harder to be sick and not get the care you want. Find a friend or family member to help you get through the health care maze.

  • Ask yourself: What do I want?
  • Ask the provider: What has to happen so I can get what I want?
  • Ask a friend or relative: Can you help me?

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