Coming home from hospital
If you have to go into hospital this can be a very worrying time for you and those who care for you, but it can be when it comes to leaving that the real concerns begin. Just because you are no longer ill enough to justify taking up a bed in hospital does not mean that you feel fully comfortable or confident living at home, particularly if you normally live alone.
Health trusts and social services are under a lot of pressure to discharge people from hospital quickly, and once there is no longer any medical reason to remain, Councils can be charged if they are seen to delay discharges. As a result this can things can creep up very quickly and families faced with the need to take very quick action to ensure the safety of their loved ones.
...All at a time when people are at their most vulnerable.
There is help available however. Medical staff are under an obligation to refer people who they think are at risk of not being able to look after themselves fully at home to the hospital social workers or possibly an occupational therapist. They must carry out an assessment of your needs and any help that you will need to cope at home. If they think there is any risk then they have to agree a Discharge Plan with you and those who care for you. It is important that family, friends or neighbours who might be offering you help try and attend this Assessment, and if they are going to be providing you with any care, that they ask for a Carers Assessment (which can be done at the same time but can also be done separately if requested). This will look at how the Council can support the carer to provide the necessary care. See the page about Family Carers for advice about this.
If the Council comes to the opinion that you are eligible for assistance then there are a number of services that they might put in place for you. It is important that you ask what the options are. This can include what is referred to as Intermediate Care. This is for people who are still pretty ill and need a high level of support and oversight from nurses or care assistants. Intermediate Care could be delivered in a short-term placement in a Care Home or similar establishment, or might be possible in your own home. If you need help to re-learn to do certain things for yourself and increase your confidence, while in the meantime getting some help with personal care tasks such as keeping yourself clean, then the Council might offer you what is often called a Reablement Package (NB terminology can differ in different places). This will be free of charge for up to 6 weeks.
Arranging your own support
If you are considered not eligible for assistance from the Council, there are still plenty of avenues to explore, and the Hospital Social Work staff should provide you with help to get in touch with organisations in your local area. There will be commercial agencies able to provide the care you might need at a price, including live-in carers for a short period if that would help. Alternatively voluntary organisations such as Age UK or the British Red Cross Society will have schemes to help people home from hospital - providing things like a prescription collection service, arranging meals, or providing company. However these are quite likely to be very short term.
It may be that you do not need particular help but are just worried about the possibility of relapse or falling, in which case some form of calling service might be useful - an agency calls at regular intervals and then raises the alarm if no one answers. This service might only cost something like £3 per week. Alternatively many organisations offer the option of getting a pendant alarm, which means that the alarm hangs on a necklace or bracelet and when the button is pressed the alarm is raised, again this can cost from only £3 per week. The same reassurance might however come from getting hold of an easy to use mobile phone and setting up an alarm call system, whereby by pressing a button the phone then calls specified emergency contacts in order until someone answers. Some mobiles have a panic button them to faciltiate this. If yours does not you can still achieve the same result by subscribing to a Mobile SOS service.
Adapting your home
While most people leaving hospital will be anxious to get home as soon as possible, it may be that home is simply not suitable anymore. Perhaps some adaptations are required or maybe it is time to think about moving. Agencies called Home Improvement Agencies or Care and Repair Agencies exist in most localities and sometimes they will have schemes focussed particularly on people in this circumstances, which will provide advice about people's housing options and the help that might be available.
Most sources of help available will be very locality-specific, and you are likely to need to make enquiries locally to follow up on any of these ideas. If you do want to find out more we suggest that you look at sources of advice and information first.
As with everything else the important thing is to carefully consider what the consequences of your situation are, what you want to do about it, what you want to achieve, and what resources you have available. Then with this information make a plan.