Caring "Checklist: Questions to Ask at the Hospital Before Discharge

Make sure you've covered these points with a doctor and/or discharge planner before a loved one comes home from the hospital.
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When hospital doctors decide your loved one is ready to plan for discharge from the hospital to home, a hospital discharge planner will review what the patient needs and will help arrange for post-hospitalization care. The medical staff caring for your loved one will also have a final conversation on the day of departure to go over discharge instructions.

Don't let the patient have these meetings solo; he or she will almost surely be too stressed from the hospitalization to remember everything or provide the full picture of caregiving needs at home.

As a caregiver, you can help ensure a safe, successful transition by being sure the following questions have been answered to your satisfaction. Depending on the hospital, most answers may be provided by the discharge planner; or you may need to ask the attending doctor as well (especially questions about illness, symptoms to watch for, and follow-up care).

About your loved one's illness

What is the diagnosis at discharge? Could we review why my loved one was hospitalized, and could you summarize the status of his or her medical condition(s)?

What should we expect regarding recovery?

What should we look out for in terms of possible setbacks, and whom should we call in the event of problems?

What follow-up appointments are needed with the patient's primary physician or others?

Is any follow-up medical testing needed? What kind, where should it be done, and when?

Does the hospital have the name and contact information for the patient's primary care physician, so that a discharge summary can be sent soon?

About getting your loved one home

What day will my loved one be discharged, and at approximately what time?

How will my loved one be transferred home (taxi, car, ambulance, etc.) and who should escort him or her?

  • If my loved one can't move independently from the vehicle into the home, how do you suggest the transition into the house be made, and who will help?

About the physical set up at home

What do you need to know from me about where my loved one will be living? (You may be asked about caregivers, home setup, and other questions that get at whether you're ready to bring a loved one home from the hospital.

Can you arrange a home assessment to help me decide what kind of accommodations around the house would most help my loved one?

About equipment and supplies

What kind of equipment and supplies are being prescribed for my loved one?

  • Hospital bed?

  • Walker?

  • Wheelchair?

  • Shower chair?

  • Bedside commode?

  • Incontinence supplies (such as adult diapers, bed pads)?

  • Colostomy supplies?

  • IV equipment?

  • Respiratory equipment?

  • Wound care supplies?

  • Other supplies (rubber gloves, antiseptic wipes, skin lotion)?

  • Anything else you can think of? Be sure to mention it.

Why is this equipment needed?

How do I use this equipment? Can I have a demonstration, if needed?

Where is the equipment coming from? Supplied by providers? From a home health agency? Must I rent (and if so, from where do you suggest)?

How do I reorder supplies?

Whom do I call in case of problems with supplies?

More questions to ask at the hospital before discharge

About healthcare services

What kinds of healthcare and support services are being prescribed?

  • Physical therapy?

  • Occupational therapy?

  • Skilled nursing care (for help with wound care, monitoring)?

  • Home health aide (for help with mobility, personal care)?

  • Speech therapy?

  • Talk therapy?

Where will the services take place: In the home or outside it? If outside it, how will your loved one get there?

How often are services needed, and for how long?

How will these services be paid for?

What is the name(s) and contact information for the agency(ies) supplying these services?

About care and feeding

What kind of supervision will my loved one need? (Plan for who will be with your loved one post-discharge, since an older adult who is recovering from a hospital stay should not be left alone, especially for the first week or two.)

Can you help me prepare for aspects of personal care I'm not comfortable with (e.g. toileting, bathing) before we leave the hospital? What do I need to know? Can you arrange for a visiting nurse to educate me at home?

Does the patient have any special dietary needs or restrictions? Can you help me prepare for them?

About medications

Were any medications discontinued while the patient was in the hospital? If so, why? Should they be restarted?

Do any of my loved one's current [medications raise the risk of falling](

When hospital doctors decide your loved one is ready to plan for discharge from the hospital to home, a hospital discharge planner will review what the patient needs and will help arrange for post-hospitalization care. The medical staff caring for your loved one will also have a final conversation on the day of departure to go over discharge instructions.

Don't let the patient have these meetings solo; he or she will almost surely be too stressed from the hospitalization to remember everything or provide the full picture of caregiving needs at home.

As a caregiver, you can help ensure a safe, successful transition by being sure the following questions have been answered to your satisfaction. Depending on the hospital, most answers may be provided by the discharge planner; or you may need to ask the attending doctor as well (especially questions about illness, symptoms to watch for, and follow-up care).

About your loved one's illness

What is the diagnosis at discharge? Could we review why my loved one was hospitalized, and could you summarize the status of his or her medical condition(s)?

What should we expect regarding recovery?

What should we look out for in terms of possible setbacks, and whom should we call in the event of problems?

What follow-up appointments are needed with the patient's primary physician or others?

Is any follow-up medical testing needed? What kind, where should it be done, and when?

Does the hospital have the name and contact information for the patient's primary care physician, so that a discharge summary can be sent soon?

About getting your loved one home

What day will my loved one be discharged, and at approximately what time?

How will my loved one be transferred home (taxi, car, ambulance, etc.) and who should escort him or her?

  • If my loved one can't move independently from the vehicle into the home, how do you suggest the transition into the house be made, and who will help?

About the physical set up at home

What do you need to know from me about where my loved one will be living? (You may be asked about caregivers, home setup, and other questions that get at whether you're ready to bring a loved one home from the hospital.

Can you arrange a home assessment to help me decide what kind of accommodations around the house would most help my loved one?

About equipment and supplies

What kind of equipment and supplies are being prescribed for my loved one?

  • Hospital bed?

  • Walker?

  • Wheelchair?

  • Shower chair?

  • Bedside commode?

  • Incontinence supplies (such as adult diapers, bed pads)?

  • Colostomy supplies?

  • IV equipment?

  • Respiratory equipment?

  • Wound care supplies?

  • Other supplies (rubber gloves, antiseptic wipes, skin lotion)?

  • Anything else you can think of? Be sure to mention it.

Why is this equipment needed?

How do I use this equipment? Can I have a demonstration, if needed?

Where is the equipment coming from? Supplied by providers? From a home health agency? Must I rent (and if so, from where do you suggest)?

How do I reorder supplies?

Whom do I call in case of problems with supplies?

More questions to ask at the hospital before discharge

About healthcare services

What kinds of healthcare and support services are being prescribed?

  • Physical therapy?

  • Occupational therapy?

  • Skilled nursing care (for help with wound care, monitoring)?

  • Home health aide (for help with mobility, personal care)?

  • Speech therapy?

  • Talk therapy?

Where will the services take place: In the home or outside it? If outside it, how will your loved one get there?

How often are services needed, and for how long?

How will these services be paid for?

What is the name(s) and contact information for the agency(ies) supplying these services?

About care and feeding

What kind of supervision will my loved one need? (Plan for who will be with your loved one post-discharge, since an older adult who is recovering from a hospital stay should not be left alone, especially for the first week or two.)

Can you help me prepare for aspects of personal care I'm not comfortable with (e.g. toileting, bathing) before we leave the hospital? What do I need to know? Can you arrange for a visiting nurse to educate me at home?

Does the patient have any special dietary needs or restrictions? Can you help me prepare for them?

About medications

Were any medications discontinued while the patient was in the hospital? If so, why? Should they be restarted?

Do any medications require special storage? Do any of them have special instructions regarding how they should be taken? (Make sure you have a complete plan for dispensing meds before you leave the hospital.)

Will my loved one's primary care physician be sent an updated list of medications? (Note: If the primary care doctor gets a discharge summary, it usually includes medications. The trouble is that often the primary care doctor doesn't get a discharge summary, so it's well worth asking again.

About caregiving support at home

What if I need more help with in-home care? Can you recommend providers?

What if I need more help with meals? Can you recommend meal services?

Can you recommend a support group for caregivers, or someone else I can talk to about my worries and concerns managing the demands of caregiving?

I'm also worried about ______. (Don't hesitate to raise any other concerns you have about bringing your loved one home from the hospital, including legal issues, financial concerns, family disagreements, end-of-life planning, wandering, aggression, or other behavioral concerns.)

) or of increased mental confusion?

Do any medications require special storage? Do any of them have special instructions regarding how they should be taken? (Make sure you have a complete plan for dispensing meds before you leave the hospital.)

Will my loved one's primary care physician be sent an updated list of medications? (Note: If the primary care doctor gets a discharge summary, it usually includes medications. The trouble is that often the primary care doctor doesn't get a discharge summary, so it's well worth asking again.

About caregiving support at home

What if I need more help with in-home care? Can you recommend providers?

What if I need more help with meals? Can you recommend meal services?

Can you recommend a support group for caregivers, or someone else I can talk to about my worries and concerns managing the demands of caregiving?

I'm also worried about ______. (Don't hesitate to raise any other concerns you have about bringing your loved one home from the hospital, including legal issues, financial concerns, family disagreements, end-of-life planning, wandering, aggression, or other behavioral concerns.)