Organising help before they come home

Before your partner, relative or friend comes home from hospital, it might be helpful to think about how they would like to be looked after and any help that you may need.

It’s a good idea to talk to the person you will be caring for and involve them in making any plans. You could include any other family members or friends who will be helping with care and think about whether you need more support.

All of the practical help and services you need should already have been organised by the hospital or hospice. As a carer, you should be involved in any discharge planning. This is an opportunity to discuss practical arrangements and any help you may need.

The person you’re caring for should be given all of the medicine and information that they need before they come home. Your GP and community nursing team should also be made aware that the person you’re caring for is to be discharged home soon.

Preparing for your relative or friend to come home

This information is about some of the people and services who can help you prepare for when the person you are caring for comes home. We also have information to help you prepare for some of the practical things you may need in the home.

Talking about it

Before the person you’re caring for comes home, it’s a good idea to talk to them about how they want to be looked after and how you can help them. Even if they’re not feeling well, they may still want to be involved in making plans about their care. Including them in these plans will help them feel valued and loved.

If other family members and friends are sharing the care, it’s useful to involve them in discussions early on too. You will then be able to find out how each person can help, and where you may need further help.

You may find that you’re asked to keep everyone updated as things change. This can be very stressful, especially if you find you have to break bad news to a number of different people.

You could think about asking another family member or a friend to help you do this.

Organising help and services

All the practical help and services needed should already be set up before your family member or friend comes home. This is usually done by the hospital or hospice staff, with a social worker. All hospitals and organisations have policies to make sure a person is safely discharged and the care they need at home has been organised.

The person you’re caring for may have a holistic needs assessment carried out before they come home. In the assessment, you will both be asked lots of questions about how you’re feeling and what help you need. This is to make sure that you get the right support. Everyone involved in the person’s care should have a copy of this, including their GP. You can ask the nurse about this.

If there are a lot of things to discuss before discharge, the ward or hospice staff may arrange a meeting. This may involve:

  • the person with cancer and their main carer
  • the doctor in charge of the person’s care
  • specialist nurses
  • an occupational therapist (OT)
  • a social worker.

If you are the main carer, you should be involved in any discharge planning. You should never be left to take the person home without the right help and support in place. If you aren’t sure of the plans that are being made, talk to the nurses or ward manager. They can discuss it with you and arrange for you to see the social worker. This is so you can talk about any help you may need, called a carers assessment. If you’re not happy with anything that has been arranged, say so.

If you find it difficult to discuss your needs with the staff, try writing them down. You may also find it helpful to have someone else with you. As well as giving you support, they can remind you of anything you may have forgotten.

Remember that plans can be changed later if the situation changes. For example, when the person first goes home, you may not need any help looking after them. But if they begin to get weaker, you may need help with their personal care – such as washing, dressing and eating.

The person you’re caring for should be given information from the hospital or hospice to take home. This may tell you what medication and type of diet they need, and where to get more support. If the information isn’t clear, ask for more details. You have the right to ask any questions you want.

Make sure the person you’re caring for has the medicine they need when they are discharged. You will need enough to last until a new prescription can be arranged from the GP. You can talk to the pharmacist about this.

GP and community services

The GP and community nursing team should be told that the person you’re caring for is being sent home soon. You can ring the GP to explain what is happening. You may be given a letter to take to the GP.

During the first few days at home, the GP may visit or contact you by phone. If this doesn’t happen, contact the GP and tell them that the person you’re looking after has just come out of hospital. The sooner the GP makes contact with you both, the better – even if you think you don’t need much help at the time.

We have more information about working with professionals.