Notes, News & Musings on Elder Care


What causes the most stress for caregiver families? There are tons of stressors: finding the right healthcare providers, choosing the best Medigap policy, finding the right prescription drug plan, figuring out how to pay for care. Yet, the most stress is caused by lack of information and advocacy as families find themselves pulled into the complex world of healthcare for the elderly.

For example, let’s assume Mom is hospitalized. It seems just as Mom is healing, the hospital wants to discharge her. Families look to the medical profession for options, sometimes only to be told that the hospital staff cannot find a placement for the patient because she has a reputation for being “difficult,” “combative” or “aggressive.”

Families may hear: “We are discharging your Mom tomorrow. You will have to pick her up by 10 a.m.” This is IMPROPER! Families are not required to pick up a patient that they cannot care for safely and effectively. Often dementia patients are hospitalized because they suffer from agitation, aggression and combative behavior. Medicines are adjusted, infections are treated and while the patient may improve, it may still be impractical or impossible for a frail spouse or working adult children to provide the care the demented patient needs.

Does the law require family to pick up a relative from the hospital? NO! Is a spouse in this situation abandoning his wife? NO! Will he be “charged” with “abandonment?” NO! Will she become a ward of the state? NO! What will happen? Amazingly, the discharge planner will actually find a placement. We have seen this occur repeatedly in our practice. While we often assist the healthcare provider by searching for a placement, once the medical staff understands that the family is not going to be intimidated by them or the process, the healthcare provider becomes proactive in seeking placement for the patient. It is after all, the job of the hospital staff, not the family, to find the safest, least restrictive environment for the patient.


  1. Brenda Southerland
    Thu 09th Sep 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Monica, In these situations, will the patient be responsible for the charges if they are deemed ready to be discharged medically by the physician? Perhaps in the future, you could also comment on how a discharge can be appealed if the family feels that the patient is not medically ready for discharge.

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