The Ultimate Guide to Your Hospital Discharge Care Plan

Going home from the hospital can be an exciting yet stressful time. You are likely eager to get back to the comforts of home, but may feel overwhelmed about managing your health after being discharged. Creating a comprehensive discharge care plan with your healthcare team ensures you fully understand what you need to do to continue healing once you leave the hospital. Here is an in-depth guide to help you develop your hospital discharge care plan.


A hospital discharge care plan outlines the care instructions and medications you need to follow once you return home from a hospital stay. This customized plan helps transition you from receiving round-the-clock care in the hospital to managing your health independently. Having a solid discharge plan in place allows you to smoothly continue your recovery process while minimizing the risk of complications or readmission.

Your discharge care plan may cover:

  • Follow-up appointments and tests
  • Medications and prescription refills
  • Self-care activities like changing dressings and monitoring symptoms
  • Diet, nutrition, and lifestyle adjustments
  • Home health services if needed
  • Emergency warning signs to watch for

Carefully following your discharge plan gives you the best chance for an optimal recovery. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to create an effective hospital discharge care plan.

Work With Your Healthcare Team

The first step in developing your discharge plan is collaborating with your healthcare team. This includes doctors, nurses, physical therapists, nutritionists, and discharge planners at the hospital. Discuss the following topics with your providers:

Condition and treatment overview: Make sure you thoroughly understand your diagnosis, tests performed, procedures done, and any complications during your hospital stay. Confirm the treatment plan moving forward.

Medications: Obtain a complete list of new prescriptions, including the drug name, dose, purpose, and instructions. Ask about any discontinued meds. Review all side effects.

Home health services: Determine if any services like nursing care, physical therapy, or occupational therapy are needed temporarily. The hospital can help coordinate care.

Follow-up care: Get specifics on all upcoming appointments, tests, and labs you’ll need as an outpatient. Understand which providers you should see and when.

Symptoms and warning signs: Discuss what symptoms to expect and which ones require immediate emergency care. Know when to call the doctor.

By addressing these key topics, you and your providers can develop a tailored discharge plan that meets your unique health needs. Come prepared with any questions and take notes. You can also request they provide the discharge plan instructions in writing.

Medication Management

Taking medication safely and effectively is a vital part of your discharge care plan. Here are some key medication management tips:

Keep an updated list: Have an accessible list that includes all your current medications, dosages, frequencies, and purposes. Update it any time there are medication changes.

Use reminders: Set phone alerts, digital pillboxes, or other cues to remember when to take medications according to schedule.

Refill in advance: Sign up for pharmacy automatic refills or refill at least one week before running out of any prescriptions.

Store properly: Follow instructions for proper storage like keeping certain medicines in the fridge or away from light.

Avoid interactions: Check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, or herbal supplements.

Track side effects: Note any medication side effects and notify your doctor promptly. Don’t stop taking a prescription without your doctor’s approval.

Carefully adhering to your medication instructions ensures you get the full benefits while minimizing risks. Notify your healthcare providers if cost ever prevents you from getting needed medicines.

At-Home Recovery Process

Once you settle back at home, focus on following doctor’s orders for your at-home recovery. Typical discharge care plan instructions involve:

Diet: Stick to the recommended diet and beverage plan you were given. For example, your doctor may advise avoiding alcohol, caffeine, or certain foods temporarily.

Activity: Follow activity and exercise guidelines provided at discharge. This helps healing and prevents injury. Increase activity gradually over time.

Wound care: If you have any incisions, catheters, or dressing changes, diligently perform proper daily care as shown at the hospital. Watch closely for signs of infection like redness, swelling, oozing, or fever.

Physical therapy: If prescribed, faithfully complete physical therapy exercises using proper technique and frequency. This facilitates recovery.

Doctor visits: Attend all follow-up doctor visits as recommended by the discharge plan. Tracking progress and managing any emerging health issues.

Prevent complications: Take all steps advised to prevent post-discharge complications like blood clots, pneumonia, or falls.

Closely adhering to your at-home medical regimen assists healing and helps avoid setbacks or hospital readmission. Notify your doctor promptly about any worrying symptoms or recovery roadblocks.

Ongoing Lifestyle Changes

Beyond the initial recovery period, your discharge plan may include making certain long-term lifestyle changes to protect your health going forward. These may entail:

Diet: Adopting healthier eating habits long-term if advised, like lowering salt, fats, sugar, or calories.

Physical activity: Increasing physical activity as able if recommended, like starting a walking regimen.

Stress reduction: Adding in stress-relieving practices like yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises.

Smoking cessation: Quitting smoking through counseling, nicotine patches, gum, hotlines, or support groups.

Preventive screening: Following guidelines for preventive screenings like mammograms, colonoscopies, lung cancer screens, or bone density tests.

Making sustainable healthy lifestyle changes fortifies your body, lowers risks of complications or reoccurring issues, and improves your overall wellbeing.

When to Seek Emergency Care

It’s vital to know when to seek immediate emergency medical care after hospital discharge. Go to your nearest emergency room if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain, tightness, or shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fainting or passing out
  • Severe headache or confusion
  • Uncontrolled bleeding or vomiting
  • High fever over 101 F
  • Sudden inability to eat, drink, or take medicines
  • Any life-threatening reaction or medical emergency

Don’t delay emergency care for any worrying post-discharge symptoms, even if they seem minor at first. It’s better to immediately get examined to prevent any serious consequences.


Leaving the hospital is a major transition in your healthcare journey. Following your hospital discharge care plan helps you continue smoothly recovering while adjusting to life at home. Stay engaged with your healthcare team, adhere to your treatment regimen, make healthy lifestyle changes, and watch closely for any warning signs. With a smart discharge plan and diligent self-care, you can thrive once back home again.

Leave a comment