Tips for Transitioning from Hospital to Community

Spotlight On Mental Health
hospitalToday’s blog entry is by Peer Support Worker, Jude Swanson, one of the author’s of Evening the Frayed Edges and Evening the Frayed Edges: Ripples of Recovery.
Tips for Transitioning from Hospital to Community
By Jude Swanson
     I’d like to share a testimonial about my care at a hospital for physical and mental health care and my transition back into the community.
     In 1996, I was hospitalized with major physical injuries due to a suicide attempt. The hospital staff (including but not limited to Surgeons, Doctors, Psychiatrists, Nurses, Support Staff) all worked together to make my stay as comfortable as possible for me and I’m grateful.  My peers (other patients) and our families were also very supportive and helpful.
     As I reflect back upon one aspect of that time the transition from hospital back to community, I feel three factors were particularly important. These three factors are having a social network, connecting to community supporters and building structure into my daily routine. So, in short the factors were social, support and structure.
     For me, having a social network was relatively easy. I just re-connected with my family and friends that were already out in the community. Just spending time and connecting with these people was really important. Being around my father, uncle and grandmother was especially helpful. I think this was in part because we were able to reminisce about past good times but my family was also there to support me through a variety of mental and physical health challenges I was having to endure. Friends were also an important part of this social network. They also were able to help simply by listening to me but also providing guidance when they knew I was asking for their input. One resource I did not access at this time (because I didn’t know such places existed) were mental health drop-ins. I get value out of being around peers who also live with mental health issues, so I wish I had known and accessed mental health drop-ins as a way of socializing.
     In my case, connecting to community supporters was also relatively easy. I already had a Family Doctor so I just phoned up his office to re-open my file and saw him soon after I was released. Before I was discharged from hospital, I went to a community mental health team and spoke with a Case Manager. This lady was very helpful and accommodating, so I had a place to go for mental health services before I left the hospital. This particular mental health team also has an active relationship with a local pharmacy so by being connected to the team, it was relatively easy to know where to pick up medications. This was of particular help to me because I had a lot of physical issues as well as mental health concerns. I’m glad I had a family doctor, pharmacy and mental health services all set up before I left the hospital. It made things easier for me to transition back into the community.
     Building structure into my daily routine is certainly something I would recommend, even though this was probably part of my transition that I was not so good at. Hospitals seem to run by a regular routine/structure and as a patient I started to adjust to fitting into the hospital’s structure. However, once out of hospital, I no longer had to get up at a certain time for breakfast, lunch, dinner plus all the other things in a hospital routine. I found I was able to sleep in, miss breakfast and often did even leave my ‘home’ unless I had an appointment. I spent many hours just watching television. I immediately recognized the value of structure once I got connected to the Rehabilitation Department at my local mental health team. Suddenly I had groups to attend, activities to participate in and places to go. Building structure into one’s day doesn’t have to take place at a mental health team but I do think having an active daily structure helps a person’s mood. Getting up at a regular time, having activities to participate in and having people to go visit with certainly helps me, even now, to stay well.
     So, for me, accessing my social network, connecting with my supporters (mental and physical) and building structure back into my daily life were all things that make transitioning from hospital back into community easier for me. I would like to thank all my friends, family members, peers and supporters who helped me make my transition from hospital into community a successful one. I’d also like to thank all the help and support that I received from the staff on physical and mental health wards!