Leaving the hospital - your discharge plan
After an illness, leaving the hospital is your next step toward recovery. Depending on your condition, you may be going home or to another facility for further care.
Before you go, it is a good idea to create a list of things you will need once you leave. This is called a discharge plan. Your health care providers at the hospital will work on this plan with you and your family or friends. This plan can help you get the right care after you leave and prevent a return trip to the hospital.
A social worker, nurse, doctor, or other provider will work with you on a discharge plan. This person will help decide if you should go home or to another facility. This may be a nursing home or rehabilitation (rehab) center.
The hospital will have a list of local facilities. You or your caregiver can find and compare the nursing homes and rehab centers in your area at Healthcare.gov - www.healthcare.gov/find-provider-information. Check to see if the facility is covered by your health plan.
If you can return home or to a friend or relative's house, you may still need help doing certain things, such as:
- Personal care, such as bathing, eating, dressing, and toileting
- Household care, such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and shopping
- Health care, such as driving to appointments, managing medicines, and using medical equipment
Depending on the type of help you need, family or friends may be able to assist you. If you need a home health care aid, ask your discharge planner for suggestions. You can also search for local programs and services. Here are some sites that can help:
- Family Care Navigator - www.caregiver.org/family-care-navigator
- Eldercare Locator - eldercare.acl.gov/Public/Index.aspx
What Will you Need?
If you will be going to your home or to another's home, you and your caregiver should plan ahead for your arrival. Ask your nurse or discharge planner if you will need any special equipment or supplies, such as:
- Hospital bed
- Walker or cane
- Shower chair
- Portable toilet
- Oxygen supply
- Disposable gloves
- Bandages and dressing
- Skin care items
Your Discharge Checklist
Your nurse will give you a list of instructions to follow after leaving the hospital. Read them carefully to make sure you understand them. Your caregiver should also read and understand the instructions.
Your plan should include the following:
- A description of your medical problems, including any allergies.
- A list of your all medicines and how and when to take them. Have your provider highlight any new medicines and any that need to be stopped or changed.
- How and when to change bandages and dressings.
- Dates and times of medical appointments. Make sure you have the names and phone numbers of any providers you will see.
- Who to call if you have questions, problems, or have an emergency.
- What you can and cannot eat. Do you need any special foods?
- How active you can be. Can you climb stairs and carry things?
Following your discharge plan can help you recover and prevent further problems.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website. Taking care of myself: A guide for when I leave the hospital. www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/diagnosis-treatment/hospitals-clinics/goinghome/index.html. Updated November 2018. Accessed October 7, 2020.
Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services website. Your discharge planning checklist. www.medicare.gov/pubs/pdf/11376-discharge-planning-checklist.pdf. Updated March 2019. Accessed October 7, 2020.
Review Date: 7/13/2020
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.