Your mum is due for a knee replacement or your dad is about to have a heart bypass. They swear they’ll be fine at home by themselves, and that they don’t need help.
But of course, you worry. Here’s how you can support your parent after they’ve had a stay in hospital.
Talk to them before they go into hospital
Talk to your mum or dad about what help they might need after they return home. Their doctor or specialist will have given them an indication of recovery times and also advice about what they should do to aid recuperation.
They might not be able to drive for a few weeks, do housework or perhaps be unable to bend down or lift heavy items. Maybe they’ll need help with dressing or more personal care. Plus, don’t forget there’s also their furry friends (aka fur-children) to consider who might need walking while their parent is recovering.
Understanding the impact that hospitalisation will have on their lives will help you both put in place strategies that will support recovery, as well as helping them maintain their independence.
Prepare now for how your parent will get home from hospital, as it could be both physically difficult and emotionally unsettling for them to return home alone. It’s not always practical for an adult child to collect their parent from hospital. Work, childcare responsibilities, and distance can all make it impossible. Planning in advance can make sure you’re all happy and comfortable with the solution.
If it’s an emergency admission and there’s been no time for this conversation, it’s still possible to chat to them while they’re in hospital about the support they might need once at home. This of course depends on the medical situation and your parent’s condition. The health professionals will be able to provide you with the information in this case.
What can you do while your parent is in hospital?
While they’re in hospital, revisit the conversation about the help they might need at home. Depending on how the surgery went (or the reason for admission), there could be additional factors that need to be taken into consideration. With your parent’s permission, consult with their doctor about what you can do to help recovery.
If you’re at work and unable to get to the hospital during daytime visiting hours, look at other services that can support your parents – appropriately trained people who can sit with them and keep them company, bring them magazines, and make sure sure they have familiar items from home.
Think about how you can make their home warm and inviting, and ready for their return.
Fill the fridge, wash the linen (there’s nothing better than clean sheets) and make the beds. If they’re an avid reader, perhaps go to the local library and stock-up on their favourite authors or download books onto an iPad.
If they need nursing care, there will be a range of community-based options that your parent’s geriatrician or local authority’s social services team can recommend.
Settling in back home
The plans and preparation you’ve made in advance of your parent’s return home should ease their recovery over the weeks or months. They’ll hopefully feel safe and secure and you’ll feel confident that they are properly supported.
However, one of the most debilitating things about illness is having your lifestyle and your social life curtailed. Older people in particular are at risk of isolation and this can have a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing. One of the key things to do is to help your parent to continue doing what they love and that includes keeping them involved in their community, whatever that may be.