Returning home after your intensive care stay

Leaving hospital to returning home after a stay in an intensive care unit (ICU) at either Fiona Stanley Hospital or Rockingham General Hospital (external site) is a major step in your recovery. It may be a goal you’ve been working towards for some time, but it does take time and effort to get back to a normal life.

Before you leave hospital, your physiotherapist may give you an exercise plan to help with your recovery.

Planning for your recovery

It may take several months to recover from a critical illness or injury and our intensive care unit (ICU) staff may carry out health checks to find any physical or psychological problems you are likely to have.

If they think you are at risk of having problems later in your recovery, they may carry out more checks:

  • before you leave the ICU
  • before you’re discharged from hospital
  • two to three months after you’ve left the ICU.

Depending on the results of these checks, our intensive care staff may prepare a rehabilitation plan for you. What is in this plan will depend on how long you were in intensive care and your needs, but may include information on:

  • the difference between intensive care and ward-based care
  • the physical, dietary or medical needs you are likely to have in the future, and who will be responsible for your care when you are in the hospital and when you leave.
When you leave hospital

When you’re well enough to leave hospital, you may have an assessment to find any difficulties you might face when you get home. This would include psychological or emotional problems, as well as any care and equipment you need.

Before you leave the hospital, your healthcare team will:

  • discuss and agree with you what your rehabilitation goals are (what you want to achieve as you get better)
  • organise any referrals and any other care or rehabilitation you will need.

When you leave the hospital, you will be given:

  • a letter that summarises your time and treatment in ICU (known as an ICU discharge summary)
  • the contact details of the person coordinating your rehabilitation
  • if appropriate, a copy of your rehabilitation plan.
When you get home

As you won’t have the same support you had in hospital, this can be a difficult time for you and for your family.

It’s normal to go through times where you feel depressed or frustrated because you don’t seem to be getting better. Setting small goals in your daily routine can help you recover and show you that you are improving. A small goal could be something as simple as making a drink for yourself or walking a few steps further without needing to rest. Don’t push yourself too hard as this can end up making your recovery take longer.

When you’ve been critically ill, you’ll probably feel very tired and won’t have much energy. It will take time before you feel well enough to cope with everyday life and many more months to get back to full strength.

Set yourself targets to help you get back to normal and keep doing any exercises your physiotherapist gave you. In the early days you may need to take things very slowly – don’t overdo your exercise as this can set your recovery back. Slowly increase your activity to build up your strength and make sure you rest when you need to.

If you’ve had an operation, you must follow your doctor’s advice. Your body will tell you if it’s getting tired or is in pain. If you feel unwell or get out of breath, stop what you’re doing and rest.

Checking up on your recovery

A member of your healthcare team may offer to meet with you two to three months after you left the ICU. The meeting will be to discuss any physical, psychological or other problems you’ve had since you left hospital. If you’re recovering more slowly than expected, they should be able to refer you to the appropriate rehabilitation service.

If you need help

When you’re back home, your GP will be involved in your general care and recovery. They can refer you to other services if you need them, such as community-based physiotherapy.

If your GP is unable to help, you can always contact the ICU where you were treated.

For Fiona Stanley Hospital ICU patients

Phone the hospital switchboard on 6152 222 and ask to be transferred to ICU.

For Rockingham General Hospital ICU patients

Phone the hospital switchboard on 9599 400 and ask to be transferred to ICU.


Return to information about your ICU patient journey

Button reads ICU patient journey

Contact our ICUs

Contact the ICU at Fiona Stanley Hospital or Rockingham General Hospital (external site).