Discharge from Hospital
The support that a patient needs on discharge from hospital will vary enormously depending on the illness and ongoing needs. Certain patients who have been in the critical care unit for a prolonged period may require rehabilitation. Depending on service availability, care packages should be arranged prior to/at hospital discharge and may include visits from a district nurse, occupational therapist and ongoing physiotherapy.
Once the patient has been discharged from hospital, the hardest part of their recovery is over but they still have further to go before they will be completely better. It will be a long time until their strength is back to normal and the emotional impact of having been critically ill will last for some time. At this time relatives can give them the option of looking at the diary they kept during their stay in ICU if they feel ready for it at this time, although it may still be too soon.
The prolonged recovery period can lead to several problems and patients can experience considerable levels of anxiety and depression. Patients may avoid company and show less affection for their partners, family and friends.
Patients may often understandably feel that the recovery phase of their critical illness is the most stressful period as they have to come to terms with how ill and close to death they have been. Often their distress is a reflection of the stress the family and close friends have been under while they were unaware. It is natural to want to cry and have disturbed nights and this can be viewed as part of the healing process. If you are finding it hard to cope then seek advice from your GP or critical care follow-up clinic, where available. Support for relatives providing care after discharge from hospital will vary according to local provision and should be discussed with the hospital and GP.
For patients recovering from critical illness, it will take time to get back to feeling their normal self. Exactly how long this will take depends on things like the length of time you have been ill, whether they have lost a lot of weight and whether the illness means that they will have to change some aspects of their lifestyle.
Recovery and rehabilitation continue long after discharge from hospital and there are a number of common problems that ex-ICU patients face and many of these can be found in the rehabilitation section. Not all of these will affect all patients and their severity will lessen with time or pass altogether but it can help knowing that these challenges are normal and are a part of the recovery process.