Most of us know someone who has been or still is in long term hospital care, whether they’ve suffered an injury, contracted an illness or slipped into a coma, there’s plentiful reasons to end up in that situation. But there’s also plenty of alternatives, each with unique positives and negatives. The uniting factor of all these alternatives is that they allow a choice to those who may be feeling helpless, offering independence to the dependant. Hospitals can seem like alien, otherworldly places where the sick are carted in and treated like machines that need to be maintained. Hospitals can also be dangerous places for the vulnerable, as being in close proximity to other ill people can make health conditions worse and spread diseases to patients whilst their immune systems are weakened by other ailments.
The main alternatives to long term hospital care are at-home care, care homes and getting better. Although the latter option is the most desirable, we wouldn’t need hospitals in the first place if getting better was as simple as wanting it. So if we don’t want to stay at the hospital, we are left with a choice between our homes or care homes, both of which come at a price we unfortunately can’t all afford.
At Home Care
When choosing to receive care at home, depending on the severity of our condition we might require to hire live-in or part-time carers, or have visitors check in on us. Either way, many conditions require specialist equipment to treat properly, so we are left with two options: buying or renting equipment.
Buying your own hospital equipment is more costly up front than renting, so is the best choice for those resigned to a long lasting or permanent situation who can afford the equipment they need: whether that’s specialist beds, bathing equipment or bariatric furniture that can support people of immense size. The major positive of this option is that once its all set up, the running costs are going to be low compared to the alternatives. Plus, patients get to stay in the homes they know and love, maintaining a sense of independence and dignity that is often impossible in hospitals. The big downside is the cost; however this may be minimal if the patient only requires minimal equipment. Furthermore, if something goes terribly wrong, patients may not have immediate access to the required medical assistance to prevent conditions worsening. The decision, as with all these alternatives, should be based on each patients wants and needs, making their life as comfortable as possible.
Renting your own hospital equipment is a great option for those who should only require at home care temporarily. This is often recommended to patients who are in the final stages of recovery from a major illness or surgery, if they want to return home before their recommended discharge date. It can also be useful to rent expensive equipment for a few days before committing to buy it to make sure it’s exactly what’s required. Equipment is generally rented for 1-4 weeks, but this can be extended indefinitely until it’s no longer required. For this reason, it can become more expensive to rent if conditions do not improve at the prescribed rate. The benefits and drawbacks are similar to buying, but because the patient never owns the equipment, they don’t have to deal with selling it at the end. This is good because it is easier for patients who already have enough to deal with, but at the cost of not getting any of their money back when the equipment goes, the whole ordeal is a sunk cost. It’s also worth noting this is a great choice for patients who have at home equipment that they cannot take or do not want to deal with taking on holiday. This allows at-home patients with long term, severe conditions a greater sense of freedom, allowing them to visit relatives or long sought-after parts of the world.
Care homes bear many similarities to hospitals and could be seen as a middle ground between them and at-home care. The main differences are that care homes do not have resident doctors to assist if advanced medical care is needed. Indeed, many care homes only employ staff with the most basic medical expertise, often for the lowest salaries they can get away with, which causes many to be ran inefficiently and unsuitably for patients with severe conditions. The advantage of care homes over hospitals is that because everyone there is a long-term patient, residents have a greater social life than if they are in the often isolating environment of a hospital ward. The greater emphasis on social life is highlighted with communal areas, often with regular activities and some also provide days out. This makes care homes a better choice for long-term patients with less severe conditions, or those who long for company. The major downside is the stigma that has grown around being in a care home, with some seeing these places as modern insane asylums, for good reason. It can be hard to distinguish the level of care, condition of other patients and more from the spotless tours given by smiling managers. Without due care, you might put your bariatric relative in a care home that is full of dementia patients, which will no doubt be worse than the relative peace of a hospital ward. It’s best to thoroughly research reviews of existing and previous patients, to ensure that you or your loved one end up in the place they are expecting.
The best case scenario would be to immediately or quickly recover from the conditions that have put a patient into long term care. Whilst this isn’t always possible, it needs to remain in the minds of those in long term care. It can be too easy for a patient to accept and accommodate a substandard living condition by resigning to the fact that they have an incurable illness. Often this is not the case, and although it may be hard, take a long time or both, never give up hope that life can return to normal.