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Receiving treatment for medical issues is only the first step of a complete recovery plan. Whether the issue is cancer, a heart attack, mental health, or substance abuse, initial treatment is intended to halt the symptoms so recovery can begin.
All recovery requires an exit plan, sometimes called discharge planning, and should begin as early as possible during initial treatment.
A Strong Aftercare Plan Includes:
- Start Aftercare Planning as soon as you begin treatment
- Minimum of 90 days of a monitored environment
- Outside support group (AA, NA, SMART Recovery)
- Discharge Plan (Discharge destination address and contact info, follow-up dates, review of medications, dosages, and when to take)
Recovery is a long-term process, and continuing care after treatment is just as important for a successful outcome as the first days of treatment. It’s necessary to make an exit plan as part of a group effort between the patient, family members, friends, medical providers and their support staff.
5 Elements of a Successful Aftercare Exit Plan
The aftercare plan should be put on paper and kept in a safe place for future needs.
While there are many elements to be considered when preparing for discharge from any treatment program, here are some of the most important.
1. Treatment Team Continuing Care Recommendations
This will be completed by the primary clinical team, physician, or therapist and will include recommendations for what do after leaving the care facility, follow-up procedures, dates, and contact information. Typically this will include:
- Extended Care – place and contact info
- Support Meetings – where, when, and how often
- Sponsor – name and contact info
- Physician or Therapist – name contact info, and follow-up dates
2. Patient Plan for Continuing Care
This will often be the same information provided by the treatment team as listed above, but can also include more personal information and notes about each one.
3. Follow-up Dates and Contact Information
This might seem redundant, but it’s important to have access to this information in one place so it’s easy to locate if necessary. Place the contact information of each team member in a contact list on a phone or contact book. Also add them to a calendar app or printed calendar where they are easy to find.
Make sure this information is accessible by a trusted friend or family member who will be supporting you in recovery in case of an emergency. For each one include:
- Name of Contact
- Title or Occupation (doctor, therapist, sponsor, family member, friend)
- Office Phone Number
- Cell Phone Number
- Email Address
- Description of Service Provided
4. Relationships and Support Systems
How can you get support from relationships? List the names of people (and contact information) you feel you can talk to if you are feeling troubled, confused, or discouraged. Write how you will approach them to ask for support.
This information is also important to share or have accessible by a trusted friend or family member in case of an emergency.
Whether you are religious or not, recovery involves making changes in your values and your goals in life, and people who have spiritual resources to support them are usually more successful in recovery.
If you practice religion, finding a trusted person from your church who you can trust and confide in is important.
If you’re not religious, meditation or other positive groups can serve you well as an additional external focal point that is not connected to treatment.
Spiritual support systems help keep us grounded and on a positive mental track.
Treatment is Only the Beginning
Treatment is an important time to stabilize a person, stop the negative influences, learn tools to stay healthy, and get back on track to a normal life. But it is only the beginning.
Many people leave treatment in a good place, but some will be returning to the same environment that caused pain and suffering.
It’s important to understand that discharge is a new beginning and it will require work to keep from undoing all the good things brought by treatment.
Relapse is a part of many medical issues including cancer, asthma, mental health, and substance addiction.
By following a carefully prepared exit plan, the chance of relapse can be minimized and many people continue to live a life free from the problems that were addressed in treatment.
It can’t be stressed enough that support systems are vitally important to successful recovery. Strive to find and maintain responsible and positive people who can be trusted to be a part of the discharge support system and ensure that they have access to important parts of the exit plan.