Ventilator/Ventilator Support Going Home on a Ventilator
If you need to be on a ventilator for the long term and your condition is stable, you may be able to use a ventilator at home. This can help avoid some of the complications of long hospital stays and improve your quality of life. You will likely use the ventilator with a trach tube or face mask.
Some people need ventilator support for life. Other people may be able to stop using the ventilator when their condition improves. For example, your baby or child may be able to go home on a ventilator while recovering from a chronic (long-term) lung or heart problem. Your healthcare team will decide if you or your child is ready to stop using a ventilator.
Preparing to use a ventilator at home
Before you go home on a ventilator, your healthcare team will teach you and your caregivers how to:
- Use and maintain your ventilator
- Change your trach tube regularly, if you are using one, to remove mucus from your airways
- Maintain the equipment needed to clear mucus and keep the airways open
- Recognize when there is a serious problem and when to call your doctor or 9-1-1 for help
After the training, your healthcare team will watch as you and your caregivers do all the tasks necessary to take care of you at home. Sometimes, they will ask your loved ones to take care of you overnight at the hospital to make sure that you are all comfortable with using the ventilator.
You may be able to hire a trained healthcare professional to come to your house while you are on a ventilator.
Equipment for home ventilation
The type of ventilator that you may need may depend on your condition. Some ventilators are portable and can be used for short trips outside of the house. In addition, you may need:
- A back-up ventilator and an extra oxygen tank, and possibly another type of oxygen therapy for emergencies
- Batteries for your ventilator, in case you lose power suddenly or for short trips outside of the house
- A suction machine to remove mucus from your airways
- A humidifier to add moisture to the air to help you breathe better
- A pulse oximeter to measure your blood oxygen levels
- A nebulizer to give you medicines for breathing treatments
Using your ventilator at home
You or caregivers will need to check all equipment regularly to make sure that everything is working well. If you think that the ventilator is not working properly, call a professional to fix it.
You will also need to keep good records of any symptoms that you may have while using the ventilator.
The following steps will help keep you or your child healthy while using a ventilator at home:
- Keep close watch over the ventilator and respond quickly to alarms.
- Wash your hands often to avoid spreading germs and avoid people who are sick.
- Avoid secondhand smoke. Cigarette smoke can cause life-threatening complications.
- Get routine vaccines recommended by your doctor and stick to your treatment plan for any other medical condition that you may have.
- Make sure your cellphone is charged at all times to call for help in an emergency.
Using a ventilator at home can be stressful for you and your loved ones. It is important that you ask for help and support whenever you need it.
It is very important that you and your caregivers follow your healthcare team’s instructions. No one should change the settings on your ventilator unless directed by your doctor. If your child is on a ventilator, a trained caregiver should be nearby and awake at all times. This may mean trading off caregiving or hiring a healthcare professional for nights.
After leaving the hospital, your healthcare team will follow up regularly to make sure that your treatment is working well at home. This may include home visits by a respiratory therapist or a nurse who specializes in ventilator care. You may be able to take short trips to medical appointments if you use a portable ventilator.
Tell your electric and phone companies that someone in your household is on a ventilator. If your area loses service, these utility companies will try to restore service to your house as soon as possible. Your healthcare team can provide you with letters to send to your utility companies.
It is also helpful to keep a list of your health conditions, treatments, and medicines to give to first responders in case of an emergency.