Discharge Planning in Mental Health

Written by holly case
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Discharge Planning in Mental Health
The goal of mental health treatment is to go home well. (ward image by Oleg Ivanov from Fotolia.com)

Mental health treatment is intended to have a definite end. However, certain goals must be met before the medical personnel determines that the patient is well enough to be released. Nurses and doctors work in a team with other social agencies and the patient's loved ones to ensure certain criteria are met prior to leaving the hospital to ensure a more successful transition back into the world.

Going Home

Many homeless are mentally ill. According to the National Institutes of Health, this was an unintended result of the movement away from lifelong institutionalisation. The discharge plan must carefully state where the patient will live upon being released from the hospital. When possible, it should be verified that the patient will be returning to a safe place.

Caring Support Network

Anyone who is been in the hospital, whether for mental or physical illness, will recover best with a solid support network at home. Most commonly, this support comes from family, but friends and other acquaintances can also work well. A discharge plan involves members of the support network to ensure that someone will be watching out for the recovering person and staying alert for signs of relapse.

Medication Planning

Many mentally ill people are on maintenance medications that must be taken regularly upon leaving the hospital. The discharge plan should make sure that the patient understands what medications need to be taken, when and how often. He should be informed if there are any possible interactions between medications.

Follow-Up Care

Patients are rarely just released with no instructions for future care. Because the goal of hospitalisation is to stabilise the person until the immediate crisis is addressed, often the underlying causes that led to the hospitalisation still remain and follow-up care is essential. The discharge plan should state when the patient needs to see a doctor again, with appointment details often pre-arranged.

Coordination with Other Agencies

Helping a person stay well requires the work of a team. According to the Delaware State Guidelines to Discharge Planning, it is important to involve other community agencies in the transition from hospital to home. Prior to discharge, arrangements are often made to connect the patient with other agencies that may help, including homeless shelters, employment agencies, drug and alcohol counsellors and social service organisations.

Patient Involvement in Discharge Plan

By the time of release from the hospital, the patient should be stabilised enough to take responsibility in planning her own discharge. According to a sample discharge plan made by registered nurse case managers, the patient should be as involved in her own discharge planning as she is capable. Discharge plans should take into account the patient's level of functioning, financial resources, willingness to learn and motivation to care for herself.

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