Hospital discharge planning for frail older people and their family. Are we delivering best practice? A review of the evidence

J Clin Nurs. 2009 Sep;18(18):2539-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2008.02685.x. Epub 2009 Apr 3.


Aims and objectives: This paper examined the available evidence concerning hospital discharge practices for frail older people and their family caregivers and what practices were most beneficial for this group.

Background: Hospital discharge practices are placing an increasing burden of care on the family caregiver. Discharge planning and execution is significant for older patients where inadequate practices can be linked to adverse outcomes and an increased risk of readmission.

Design: Literature review.

Methods: A review of English language literature published after 1995 on hospital discharge of frail older people and family carer's experiences. Results. Numerous factors impact on the hospital discharge planning of the frail older person and their family carer's that when categorised focus on the role that discharge planning plays in bridging the gap between the care provided in hospital and the care needed in the community, its potential to reduce the length of hospital stay, the impact of the discharge process on family carer's and the need for a coordinated health professional approach that includes dissemination of information, clear communication and active support.

Conclusion: The current evidence indicates that hospital discharge planning for frail older people can be improved if interventions address family inclusion and education, communication between health care workers and family, interdisciplinary communication and ongoing support after discharge. Interventions should commence well before discharge. Relevance to clinical practice. An awareness of how the execution of the hospital discharge plan is perceived by the principal family carer of a frail older person, will allow nurses and others involved with the discharge process to better reconcile the family caregivers' needs and expectations with the discharge process offered by their facility. The research shows there is a direct correlation between the quality of discharge planning and readmission to hospital.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Caregivers*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital
  • Patient Discharge / standards*