As life expectancies lengthen and medical technology advances, the number of older adults undergoing surgical procedures increases.
While these procedures can greatly improve quality of life and health outlooks for patients, they can also cause short-term impediments that can impact an older adult’s ability to live comfortably and independently in their home.
Fortunately, most surgical procedures have a long enough lead time that these challenges can be offset. Read on to learn how you or a loved one can prepare for their post-surgery recovery at home.
- Understand the procedure and outcomes: Different procedures can impact your return to home differently. In order to properly prepare for post-surgery recovery, it is critical to speak with your surgeon or physician to understand the best and worst-case outcomes for the procedure you will undergo.
When discussing your procedure, ask questions about how the procedure might affect balance, manual dexterity, and strength.
- Complete difficult household tasks before surgery: If you are responsible for physically strenuous household chores, complete these in the days prior to your surgery, as they may need to wait until you are fully recovered.
- Pet planning: If you live with a pet, make sure your home is supplied with everything your furry friend might need while you recover. If your pet requires walks or other potentially challenging daily tasks, find a trusted friend or hire a service that can perform these tasks.
- Share a key: Some procedures may make it difficult to safely move around your home, either during an emergency or to receive deliveries. If you live in an apartment building, arrange to leave a key with building staff or a trusted neighbor.
- Prepare a contact list: Patients are discharged when doctors are confident they can recover safely at home, but sometimes things do not go according to plan.
Be sure to create an emergency contact list/binder and include your general physician, the surgeon performing your procedure, your designated pharmacist, your health care proxy, and Power of Attorney
These contacts can provide support if you have unexpected side effects, or ensure first responders give you the best possible care in the event of an emergency.
- Set up a recovery room: Mobility may be a challenge after surgery, so setting up a recovery area in your home can be a key element of preventing falls and other accidents.
Pick a central location in your home (using your ground floor if you live in a multi-level home) and ensure it is well-lit and any excess items, furniture, wires, and cables are all tucked out of paths of travel.
Be sure to set up additional pillows or cushions in your recovery room to make resting affected limbs easier and place a sturdy table near your chair, bed, or couch so you can keep items like snacks, drinks, glasses, and other frequently-used items within arm’s reach.
- Stock up on food and other essentials: You may need to spend several days at home after surgery, so make sure to complete a grocery run for easy-to-prepare meals. Also make sure all prescriptions and over-the-counter medications you use are topped off.
- Prepare the bathroom: Maintaining hygiene post-surgery is very important, but bathrooms are a common site of household accidents.
Consider installing grab bars near the toilet to simplify sitting and rising. The shower/bath area can also be safeguarded with the addition of a non-slip bath matt, or the inclusion of a shower chair.
- Arrange travel and discharge support: Hospitals will not discharge a surgery patient unless another person is there to assist them home.
Be sure to arrange for a friend, family member, or home caregiver to be present for your discharge and ensure your trip from hospital to home is safe.
- Get support at home: Even if you feel reasonably well on your first day home, having someone visit to assist with specific tasks, check in on your condition, and simply keep you company can go a long way towards improving your recovery time.
If a trusted friend or family member is not able to make this commitment, consider arranging for a home caregiver to visit you on a short-term basis.
- Arranging home health care: If you are concerned about your safety and comfort following surgery and you cannot secure assistance from a neighbor or family member, short-term support from a home health care agency can play a huge role in your recovery.
Home health caregivers can provide assistance with daily activities like wound care, cleaning, meal preparation, moving safely around your home, toileting, and other critical hygienic activities.
In addition to this support, home caregivers can provide much-needed company while you are recovering, and can be a critical point of communication between you and the rest of your medical team, catching changes in your condition and ensuring you remain safe.
If you choose to bring a home caregiver into your home for short-term support, prior planning is very important. Be sure to contact an agency at least two weeks prior to your surgery so they can find a qualified caregiver for your needs.
Additionally, many outpatient surgeries are only officially scheduled the day prior to the procedure. As a result, it is important to stay in close communication with your home care agency the day before your procedure to ensure a caregiver is scheduled at the right time to help you travel to and from the hospital.
Learn more about home health care after surgery here.
Recovering from a surgery can take some planning and preparation, but with the right support, you can be back to your pre-surgery routine quickly and comfortably.
SelectCare Home Health Care has helped New Yorkers live happier, healthier lives in their long-time homes for more than 35 years, providing short and long-term care services for clients across New York City.