Dear Annie: As a geriatrician, I know how thrilled patients are when they are released from the hospital and how upsetting it is to be readmitted a few weeks, or even just days, later.
One in five older patients is readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of leaving it. Each year, these repeat hospital visits add billions of dollars to national health care costs. Fortunately, there are things people can do.
Patients and their family members should question their doctors, nurses and pharmacists about anything they don't understand. If questions aren't answered, miscommunication or misunderstandings can lead to complications. Patients should repeat the instructions back to their doctors and nurses. That demonstrates whether or not they understand what to do. Most important, patients should leave the hospital with a written plan that includes information on how to take care of their condition, when their follow-up visits will be, what medications to take and complications to watch for.
We've put together a patient checklist and care transition plan that anyone can download at www.CareAboutYourCare.org. Thank you for sharing this information and for helping people stay well. — Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, President and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Dear Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey: Thank you so much for sharing this practical and worthwhile information with our readers. Everyone going to the hospital should take this information with them. Please make sure that you, a family member or a friend has all of the information before you are discharged. It could keep you from a return visit.
Dear Annie: My brother just got engaged. He and his girlfriend have two kids. Usually, this is a happy time for families, but eight months ago, my brother's fiancee cheated on him. We weren't sure the younger child was my brother's, but he took a DNA test that proved she is his little girl.
At that time, my brother decided to keep his family together and work things out, which I greatly admire. But we just found out that his fiancee is talking, emailing and texting the guy she cheated with. My brother still wants the wedding to go on and would like the rest of us to mind our own business.
Annie, I really think this is a bad decision for my brother. I worry his girlfriend will continue to cheat and hurt my brother over and over. Do I say something, or keep my mouth shut and plaster on a fake smile? — Love My Brother
Dear Love Your Brother: Say nothing more. Your brother knows how you feel, and he has asked you to accept his decision. He understands the consequences. We think he would greatly appreciate your support right now, and we hope you can plaster on that smile and provide it.
Dear Annie: This is for all those retirees who don't know what to do with themselves.
A year ago, my health forced me into an early retirement. All of my co-workers and most of my friends lived far from my home. During my first week off, I heard of a yoga class at the local senior center. As a baby boomer, I thought I was too young to go to a "senior" center. But that one class has led to a group of retired educators, like me, who go bicycling twice a week in good weather and meet for lunch in the cold season.
I volunteer at the senior center, take painting classes at a local art center and meet lots of retired folks with similar interests. I have made some good friends, found a great traveling companion and have a lot of fun.
Please point early retirees to senior centers. Remember that you need to go somewhere at least half a dozen times before you begin to feel at home. — Retired and Busy
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2012. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.