Hints and tips to support hospital discharge

Information for family and friends

When there is a delay in being able to start an individual’s Reablement support, individuals may choose to have family or friends to support them informally until the service can start. This is to enable people with personal care needs to be discharged from hospital settings as quickly as possible.

This approach will ensure that your relative or friend is discharged from hospital as soon as possible and receives appropriate care in their own home quickly.

Following the discussions you had with staff on the hospital wards, the guidance on this page is to help you to support your family member or friend whilst they are waiting for a service from Adults’ Health & Care to start.

You will be given more information about the specific service your relative will receive.

How can I support this hospital discharge?

1.  By providing essential care for a family member or a friend

Essential care can include things like help with washing, dressing, meal preparation.  If you have not been involved in tasks like these before, please see the ‘How to guides’ section below which includes hints, tips and videos. By arrangement with one of the discharge support services, one-to-one video coaching calls on apps such as WhatsApp may also be an option.

2.  By agreeing a plan for continuing care

There may be a need to amend the person’s usual care plan for a range of reasons, which could include:

  • previous informal care may need to change due to a deterioration in their condition, family arrangements or COVID-19 symptoms
  • new care needs may have been identified
  • the usual carers may be in short supply due to the current COVID-19 response or time of year.

3.  By considering what happens if you become unwell

An emergency plan can be written that has details of what will be put in place should you become unwell and be unable to provide support to the person. 

It is your choice whether or not to take on a caring role. Think about the type of support and the amount of support you are able to provide and what help you might need.

For example, you may be able to help with shopping and meals but perhaps both you and the individual would prefer someone else to help with personal care. It is important to consider how taking on caring responsibilities could affect your lifestyle, even in the short term.

What will happen before my friend/family member goes home?

On the day of discharge:

  • you and the person you care for should expect to be given both verbal and written information, with details of any services involved and information about future care
  • appropriate transport should be organised if it is required
  • you should both be given copies of the discharge plan and/or letter
  • a discharge letter should be sent to the GP of the person you care for within 24 hours
  • medication and any equipment needed at home should be provided, as well as instructions and information about its use
  • you will be provided with sufficient and appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Who can I contact for support?

  • The staff at the hospital ward where the person you care for was discharged from.
  • NHS 111 phone line, e.g. if you or they become unwell.
  • Your GP Surgery (a discharge letter should be sent to the GP of the person you care for within 24 hours). You should also register as a carer with your GP.
  • Your Pharmacy, with reference to any medication that has been provided.
  • Adults’ Health and Care who provide the Reablement Service to discuss a start date for Reablement. (However, they will contact you to check in within 48 hours of discharge)
  • Local and national charities and voluntary services who provide support for carers.

If the medical situation deteriorates, call 999.

What if my friend/family member declines my support?

  • Respect the person’s right to say no or change their mind at any point during the support.
  • Try to find out why.
  • If there is a problem with memory or understanding it may be better to return at a later time.
  • Offer alternatives e.g. If someone refuses a shower, will they accept support to wash their face and hands? If they refuse a meal, will they accept a snack or a sandwich for later?

What about my own wellbeing?

Your Wellbeing

The regular demands of caring may lead to feelings of tiredness, so it's very important to look after your own wellbeing and physical health during this time and to recognise when you need a break. See the Carers section on Connect to Support Hampshire.

Your Employment

If you are in paid work, you may need to make some adjustments if the person you care for is coming out of hospital. This could be anything from needing to make regular phone calls to check on them, through to taking an extended period of leave to support them. See the ‘Carers’ rights’ section on this page.

Good hygiene and infection prevention and control for family and friends

If you are caring for someone, there are some simple steps that you can take to protect them and to reduce their risk at the current time.

1.  Ensure you follow advice on good hygiene such as:

  • Wash your hands, on arrival and often, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
  • Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Do not visit if you are unwell and make alternative arrangements for their care.

2.  Utilise Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as face masks (that is a Fluid Repellent Surgical Mask - FRSM), gloves and aprons.

3.  Provide information on who they should call if they feel unwell, how to use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service and leave the number for NHS 111 prominently displayed.

Equipment, adaptations and technology

There are adaptions as well as a vast array of equipment and technology which may help you as a carer.

'How to’ guides for family carers

The following guides are designed to help you in your caring role. If you are not comfortable or confident in carrying out any of these tasks, please contact one of the sources in the “Who can I contact for support?” section above.

Helping someone with sitting to standing

If possible, it is best for the person to be sat in an armchair and not a sofa as the armrest will give the person something to push down onto when standing up.

The hips and knees should be at a 90-degree angle. You may wish to remove any additional cushions (not prescribed pressure cushions) to allow this. Most chairs can also be raised to help achieve this. There are many affordable chair raisers available to buy.

Video guides:

Standing Up From a Chair or Seated Position - Ask Doctor Jo - YouTube

The Sit to Stand Exercise

Helping with personal care

Before you begin to provide any personal care for the first time, please discuss this with your family member/friend and agree how they would prefer you to support with these tasks. On a daily basis, check how they are feeling and how much they are able to complete for themselves.


The person you are helping may be self-conscious or distressed so it is important to reassure them and to find the best way to allow them to maintain their dignity.

Advice and tips from the NHS – How to help someone you care for to keep clean

Advice from Marie Curie – Helping someone wash

Video guides:

Caregiver College – Bathing and dressing

Oral Health

Poor oral health can affect people’s ability to eat, speak and socialise. It is essential for the person’s wellbeing that their oral health needs are encouraged and/or supported as required.

  • Brush their natural teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use their choice of toothbrush, either manual or electric/battery powered and mouth care products.
  • If they are unable to access the bathroom, consider using the kitchen sink or a bowl.
  • Clean their dentures (brushing, removing food debris, removing dentures overnight).
  • Use their choice of cleaning products for dentures.

Video guides:

Skills for Health – How to brush your own or others’ teeth

NHS – How to clean a denture

Skin Health

Skin integrity refers to skin health. A skin integrity issue might mean the skin is damaged, vulnerable to injury or unable to heal normally. A pressure wound (also called a pressure sore, bed sore or pressure ulcer) is an injury to the skin and surrounding tissue.

If you are caring for somebody who is recovering from illness or surgery at home, confined to bed, chair or a wheelchair seek medical advice immediately if there is:

  • red, swollen skin
  • pus coming from the pressure ulcer or wound
  • severe or worsening pain
  • a high temperature

Video guide:

Pressure ulcers (pressure sores) - NHS (www.nhs.uk)


Depending on the location of the toilet you may wish to consider a commode and purchasing commode liners. Disposable Commode liners are more hygienic, alternative to cleaning a commode pan after every use.

If the person is able to access the toilet, then please use the principles on standing from a seated position guidance above. There are numerous pieces of equipment to raise the height of the toilet and rails the person can pull up on. The person should not be pulling up on radiators, heated towel rails or toilet roll holders as these can come away from the wall and could cause injuries.

Whether a person is normally continent or not, it is important to maintain their personal hygiene. If the person has problems controlling their bladder or bowel functions, they are at risk of developing infections or skin problems. As such, it is important to ensure that they have the correct continence aids and that these are changed regularly.

It does not take long for unpleasant skin conditions to develop if a person is left in a wet pad or wet underclothes. Sometimes limited mobility can contribute to a person having “accidents”, and they may be embarrassed about this. The person’s GP can put you in touch with a continence advisor who can advise you about dealing with these issues.

Further information:

Helping seniors use the toilet – safety tips

Video guides:

Care sourcer – helping the elderly use the toilet

British Red Cross – How to use toilet aids


  • The person should choose what they wish to wear but you may want to offer choice or advice. For example, you may want an extra layer if it is cold, or a skirt may be easier to access the toilet. The person may choose to stay in nightwear as this is warmer or more comfortable.
  • Check clothes fit and are comfortable as people may change shape, particularly if they have been unwell. Be aware that Stoma’s, catheters etc will all affect the fit of someone's clothes.
  • Encourage them to do what they can they do for themselves. Only help when they need your support. For example, they may be able to dress top half but not the bottom half or put shoes on.
  • If the person has a one-sided weakness, then start with that side - that arm goes into a sleeve first, then the other side.
  • If wearing multiple layers check that the bottom layer (sleeves especially) do not ruche up when you put the second layer on, its uncomfortable and could affect circulation.
  • Check underwear is straightened, comfortable and fits -including continence pads correctly placed.
  • When putting on socks roll them on from the toes up (don’t try to pull up, this can catch toenails and effect skin integrity.
  • Check socks are not too tight at the top, again this can affect circulation in vulnerable individuals.

Video guides:

Care Sourcer - helping elderly relatives to get dressed

Using Hand-under-Hand™ to Assist with Getting Dressed - Shirts and Coats - YouTube

How to dress someone in bed

Helping someone to manage and stay safe at home

  • Are there any rugs or other trip hazards which could be removed? For example, trailing wires.
  • Is there sufficient lighting (particularly at night) to help the person see where they are going? If not consider some plug-in or battery operated sensor motion lights.
  • Can they turn their own lights on? If not consider a timer on a lamp.
  • Can they answer the front door? If not consider a key safe (please consider carefully who you give this number to).
  • Can things be moved to reduce bending over or reaching up? Consider leaving items which are needed daily within easy reach.
  • Can the person carry a cup of tea or carry their phone around with them? If using a walking frame a buddy may be helpful (speak to an Occupational Therapist). If walking with no aids, then a trolley may be appropriate.
  • If the person is making their own drink, is the kettle too heavy? Consider using a jug to fill the kettle with water rather than carrying the kettle to the sink. Also think if a travel kettle may be a temporary solution as its lighter in weight.
  • If the person isn’t able to make their own drinks, consider using a flask.
  • If the person needs to use the stairs, do they have banister rails either side of the stairs? If not ask an Occupational Therapist about getting an additional rail installed.
  • If the person has a personal alarm encourage them to wear it at all times.

The Hampshire Bobby Scheme (run by the Blue Lamp Trust) carries out crime prevention and fire safety surveys for people who are over 65 or disabled. When appropriate, fitters will fit such items as locks, spy-holes, door chains and smoke alarms, etc. This service is completely free.

The Blue Lamp Trust can also supply and fit police approved key safes at a cost.

Keeping active and reducing the risks of falls

See the Stay steady on your feet’ section on this page which includes information about chair-based exercises for people with reduced mobility.

If the person has a fall:

  • It's important to keep calm. If they are not hurt and they feel strong enough to get up, ensure they do not get up too quickly.
  • The person should roll onto their hands and knees and look for a stable piece of furniture, such as a chair or bed.
  • The person should hold on to the furniture with both hands to support themselves and, when they feel ready, slowly get up. They should sit down and rest for a while.
  • If they are not hurt and you are able to help them without injuring yourself or them, please do so. Move a chair closer to them to help.
  • If they are hurt and/or you can’t help them up, dial 999 to ask for an ambulance. It’s important to keep them warm while you wait for an ambulance and if they can, encourage them to change position every 30 minutes.

Video guide:

How to reduce your risk of falling | Age UK - YouTube

Nutrition and hydration

It is essential that your friend or family members maintains their nutrition and drinks enough fluids. See the ‘Eating well and staying hydrated’ section on this page.

Managing medications

Prescribed medication must be taken at the prescribed time of day. If they are taken at the wrong time, it could stop them working properly.

Make sure you know if the medicines should be taken with food or in between meals. Again, if they are taken incorrectly, it could stop the medicine working properly or cause side effects.

To make medicines safer:

  • be aware that over-the-counter medicines should not be taken with prescribed medicines unless a doctor or pharmacist has confirmed it's safe to do so.
  • be aware that if a dose of the medicine is missed, it's dangerous to take a double dose later on to make up for it.
  • return any leftover medicines to the pharmacist for safe disposal.
  • always speak with the pharmacist or GP if you have any questions about the medicine.

When taking medication, it should always be:

  • taken at the right time of day and at the dose prescribed.
  • checked to the instructions to make sure it is being taken properly. Some medicines should only be taken before a meal, or with water or food.
  • the persons own supply and never medication prescribed for someone else.

It's important to let the GP or pharmacist know if the person experiences any side effects as they may want to change the dose or try a different medicine.

If the person you care for keeps forgetting to take their medicine, there are several ways you can help:

  • telephone them when they need to take their medicine to remind them.
  • arrange to visit at the same time as the person is meant to take their medicines.
  • get them a medication alarm or reminder or an automatic pill dispenser – this beeps when it's time to take the medicine and a small opening allows access to the correct pills at the right time.
  • ask the pharmacist for advice on other ways to remember medicines.

If they refuse to take their medicines:

  • If, for some reason, the person you care for is unwilling to take their medicines, talk to their GP or pharmacist; they may be able to suggest a form of the medicine that's more acceptable than tablets.
  • Some painkillers can be prescribed as a long-acting patch that you stick on the skin.
  • Never give medicine to someone without their consent or try to force them to take it. People have the right to refuse medicine.
  • Check with their doctor or pharmacist before you crush tablets or open capsules and mix the powder with food or drink. It's not always safe to do this.

Medicines: tips for carers - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Contact details, further information and guidance

Covid-19 Guidance

People with symptoms of a respiratory infection including COVID-19

Living with COVID: information and advice for Hampshire residents

Adults Health and Care

Contact Adults Health and Care

Information and advice from Adults Health and Care

Connect to Support Hampshire

Information for carers

Use the quick and easy Information Finder tool to find information and services for yourself and the person you care for. You can email your results page to yourself or someone else.