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J Gerontol Nurs. 1998 May;24(5):14-21.

Discharge planning for elderly patients.

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Center for Nursing Research, Camcare Health Education and Research Institute, Charleston, WV 25304, USA.


The complex chronic health problems and functional limitations common in the elderly population place them at risk for complicated hospitalizations and discharge planning. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of a discharge planning protocol in identifying elderly patients' home care needs. The sample in this quasiexperimental study consisted of 507 hospitalized patients age 65 years or older. The control group received the usual hospital discharge planning protocol. In the experimental group, nurse/social worker teams coordinated the discharge planning process, using an adapted form of the Discharge Planning Questionnaire (DPQ) to identify the home care needs of elderly patients. Thirty days after hospital discharge, both patient groups participated in a telephone survey to obtain information about health care problems they experienced during home recovery and their use of health care resources. The findings indicated that the majority of the elderly patients had functional dependencies, which required the help of another person to carry out daily household duties and provide assistance with basic needs, especially ambulation. These functionally dependent patients only received home care referrals about 50% of the time. These findings raise questions about current reimbursable services. Logistic regression analysis indicated that patients with increased functional dependency and patient problems during home recovery had a greater likelihood of rehospitalization and emergency department usage. This information about the home care of elderly patients after hospitalization supports the need for comprehensive functional assessment as part of discharge planning. This study also suggests that the nurse/social worker team can provide effective screening and discharge planning coordination of home care. Physician involvement and effective communication networks must be in place.

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