As you plan for your recovery, keep in mind that it can be a gradual process. Recovery typically follows a six-step progression and can require anywhere from a few weeks to months, depending on the cause of your hospitalization. As you progress through these steps, you should constantly evaluate your own strength and confidence. You should never move on to the next step until you are ready.
1. Dependence. When you first return home after your hospitalization, your primary goals should be rest and recovery. Your caregiver is there to support you and can handle your laundry, meal preparation, errands and any other household tasks. Focus your energy on recommended therapy exercises, activities and caloric intake. Don’t be concerned if you need more help than you expected.
2. Mild Independence. When you feel stronger, you should ask your caregiver to cut back on hands-on care whenever possible. Identify tasks that you can now manage independently, such as eating or walking down the stairs, and slowly wean yourself off of care in these areas. Never compromise your safety; ask your caregiver to step in if you feel uncomfortable.
3. Supervised Independence. Over time, you should gradually increase your independence. Your caregiver should be there to assist if needed, but the caregiver’s primary role should be supervision and safety monitoring rather than direct physical assistance. Try to perform the activities of daily living – bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, walking – as independently as possible.
4. Supported Independence. Once you are comfortable with the activities of daily living, you can incorporate chores and other housework into your routine. Try a trip to the grocery store or the pharmacy accompanied by your caregiver, or join in to prepare a meal together. Though these steps may seem minor and incremental, they are important touchstones in your path toward a full recovery.
5. Semi-Supported Independence. In this phase, you should try to take responsibility for day-to-day tasks and return to your pre-hospitalization routine. Just remember, your caregiver is there to assist you if you need help, but try not to take advantage of that assistance unless you really need it. Some activities may be more difficult following a hospitalization, regardless of the progress in your recovery.
6. Full Independence. If you feel you can safely return to all of your regular activities without the support of a caregiver, you may consider reducing your care. Evaluate your own comfort level, especially if you are living alone or with a spouse who also requires some level of care. Remember that full independence is a long-term goal and should not be prioritized ahead of your safety.