Most of us know the kind of care we need when we’re in an accident or having surgery. But what if we need care longer than the chosen provider offers it? Or what if we need a different kind of care? Who helps us navigate the more complicated layers of health care? And how do we find out that we need them?
Initially, if you go to an emergency department in an acute care hospital or a clinic, your visit might be anytime from a few hours to a day depending on your injuries or the condition you have and the diagnostic tests needed to determine whether it’s emergent or can wait.
Once a doctor reviews the information the emergency staff collects, a diagnosis is made and an ICD 9 Code given to your condition. ICD 9, International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, is recognized by medical doctors, nurses, other clinicians and healthcare professionals. That code determines the amount of time Medicare or insurance companies allow you to stay for a given diagnosis or surgical procedure. So the clock on your discharge starts ticking as soon as your case is assigned an ICD9 Code.
You can avoid surprises at the hospital by being proactive and asking your doctor and nurse questions about your estimated discharge date daily and what additional treatment you’ll likely need. If you’re too sick to do this, you need an advocate—family member or friend—to help you. This is especially important if you will need rehabilitation services or a long-term-care facility before going home since those plans need to be coordinated while you’re still in the hospital. Sometimes social workers or discharge planners will help you, but you can’t count on them. They are often overworked and may disappear when you need them leaving you and your family feeling lost about what to do next.
If you’re a patient with multiple, concurrent active diagnoses and an acute episode on top of several chronic illnesses that cannot be treated effectively at an alternative level, you might need to transfer to a Long-Term Acute Care Hospital to continue the healing process before going home. These facilities are designed to provide care 25-30 days or longer while the typical acute care hospitals tend to discharge patients in five or fewer days depending on their procedure or illness.
Some patients need extensive rehabilitation services after their procedure and transfer to another facility where they receive daily physical and/or occupational therapy before they are able to return home. Others may return home but need the additional help of home care services if they live alone, have a working spouse or one who is frail or sick.
These patients may also need medical equipment or specialized supplies at home including a wheel chair, ramp, beside potty, hospital bed, shower chair or oxygen. Finding out which companies are reputable and willing to deliver supplies on short notice is especially important during the holiday season and essential to a smooth transition home.
Some patients may find that a weakened health condition or chronic problems make it impossible or unsafe for them to return home and need to transfer to an assisted living facility. Asking a trusted family member to research facilities and make arrangements might be necessary while you’re still in the hospital in these cases.
Navigating the different types of care we or our family members need can be a little complicated but anticipating those needs ahead of time, asking questions, doing research and following up can make transitions smoother and a little less emotional for everyone involved.
Written by By Suzy Lundquist – Agape Home Care