Getting checked into an inpatient facility changes everything. You go from living your life normally, to not having any autonomy over what you eat, what you wear, and what’s on your schedule. It’s a huge shock, but if you’ve been living like that for a while, it starts to feel normal.
When you learn you’re going to be checked out and transitioned into outpatient care, it can be another shock, another huge environmental change. You’ve probably gotten comfortable in an inpatient setting and the idea of being responsible for your own life again can be daunting, especially if you’ll be managing a physical or mental health condition at home.
So, what can you expect from the transition? How can you make things go as smoothly as possible once you’ve switched to outpatient care? Here’s what you need to know.
The Benefits and Downsides of Outpatient Care
The difference between inpatient care vs. outpatient care is simple: it just refers to whether or not a patient is staying in a facility and under continuous monitoring. Inpatient care is usually reserved for patients in more serious conditions or requiring more complex treatments. Once a patient is stable enough, they are usually moved into outpatient care.
There are benefits and downsides to each type of care. Inpatient care means constant medical supervision, which can be critical in case a patient starts to go downhill. It also allows patients to just focus on getting better, instead of dealing with all the minutia of life while managing a health condition. Inpatient care provides superior support.
However, outpatient care has many benefits of its own. Patients have more independence and autonomy. They can be at home, in a comfortable environment that’s familiar and can help them recover. It’s also a lot cheaper than inpatient care, which can help ease financial concerns.
How You Can Set Yourself Up for Success
If your healthcare team is getting ready to discharge you, it’s a good idea to be actively involved so you can set yourself up for success. Talk with different members of the nursing staff about what you’ll need as far as support goes so you can try to get things set up in advance.
Make sure to ask questions if you need more information about your discharge plan. Will you need someone to stay with you and help you stick to the treatment plan, such as a relative, friend, or nurse? How often will you need to check in with your doctor? Will you need remote monitoring? Can the inpatient facility help you get in-home care or other support if you need it?
You might also need to connect with social services and other resources, depending on your situation. If you’ve been a victim of abuse or you have a good chance of experiencing a relapse, then you might need specialized support services.
It also doesn’t hurt to ask about what you’ll need at home to stay as comfortable as possible. Recovery requires rest, and you can’t rest well if you’re not comfortable!
Overcoming Inevitable Challenges
Just because you’re well enough to leave inpatient care, that doesn’t mean everything is going to be easy once you transition back to living at home. There will be challenges that come up and it’s easier to overcome them (or even prevent them) if you can anticipate them.
Some patients find that staying positive and motivated is one of the hardest aspects of outpatient recovery, especially if you are dealing with a chronic condition or a long recovery process. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and getting support from loved ones or other people who are in a similar situation can be a big help.
Another issue that can come up is the potential for setbacks or relapses. Make sure that everything at home is set up to prevent these problems. Make it easy for yourself to follow your doctor’s instructions by optimizing your space and setting reminders for yourself. Keep anything out of the house that could be a danger to you in your recovery. Again, a strong support system can be a huge help!
Getting Back to Your Normal after Inpatient Care
“Normal” looks different for everyone. If you’re transitioning from inpatient to outpatient care, then there’s a good chance that you’ve experienced some serious upheaval in your life. Give yourself the time you need to fully recover. Don’t rush things.
The process of getting back to your version of normal will be unique to you. With that said, typically getting enough rest, turning to your support systems, and sticking to the follow-up schedule your doctor provides will put you on the right path.
It can be scary coming back into your life after an inpatient experience, but relearning how to live your life to the fullest is critical for your long-term well-being, health, and happiness.