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Older veterans need to become more actively involved in hospital discharge planning for their post-hospital needs

Hospital discharge planning is important to help patients and their loved ones prepare for life after hospitalization. Veterans, like other patients, are being discharged from the hospital earlier than before, and have more post-discharge health needs. Yet, according to a new study, few older veterans are prepared to handle health changes and care needs following hospital discharge. Only a handful of veterans tried to become more involved in discharge planning activities for themselves or their loved ones during their hospital stays.

Few veterans linked their post-discharge outcomes to the hospital discharge planning process. Yet, hospital discharge personnel can advise older veterans about what to expect in health changes after a serious hospitalization. They can also advise them when to seek care, suggests Michigan State University researcher, William D. Corser, Ph.D., R.N., C.N.A.A. His study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10792). He interviewed 165 predominantly white older veterans (age 59-89 years) by telephone about their outcome experiences after discharge from an urban Veterans Administration hospital.

Few of the veterans mentioned actively working to address their new health needs or felt equipped to work through the system to do so. Many expressed concern about access to treatment, lack of followup, scheduling hassles, communication with health care professionals, or other billing and/or transportation problems. They also talked about personal adjustments in self-care and their uncertainty about whether or how to contact health care professionals for new needs. These needs ranged from falls, new symptoms, and worsened condition to new equipment needs.

See "The perceptions of older veterans concerning their postdischarge outcome experiences," by Dr. Corser, in the May 2006 Applied Nursing Research 19, pp. 63-69.

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