Joint Replacement Surgery: Prepare Your Caregiver & Yourself for a Successful Outcome
Joint Replacement Surgery Delivers Many Benefits
Healing from surgery, especially joint replacement surgeries of the hip and knee, can require special attention from a caregiver. Care giving work can be hard. The hours are odd, physical strength is required, and then there is the whole waiting on another person part.
To support successful recovery after joint replacement surgery, we have put together some helpful steps you and your caregiver can use to be prepared.
Care Giving After Joint Replacement Surgery
For most joint replacement surgeries, your doctor and care team will want to get you up and moving as soon as possible. Usually the same day. This promotes healing and can reduce inflammation. You will likely work with a physical therapist to ensure that you can get in and out of bed, use the bathroom on your own, and walk with a walker.
In a recent survey by the Arthritis Foundation, only 41 percent of respondents said that their home and caregivers were ready upon their return. Being prepared supports a speedy recovery. Those respondents who were unprepared reported much higher instances of frustration and depression.
How to Prepare Your Caregiver & Your Home for Post Joint Replacement Surgery Life
Step 1: Ask your care team – doctor, nurse, physician assistant and physical therapist about limitations in advance.
Knowing what to expect and when to expect it can be very helpful for you and your caregiver.
- Have an expectation of how much time you will spend in the ambulatory surgery center or hospital before returning home.
- Get a clear idea of how long it will be before you can move about the house independently. For instance, when does your medical care team think you will be able to cook for yourself or climb stairs again?
- Have an understanding of your limitations with driving and getting back to work.
Step 2: Consider who will help you.
A spouse or good friend might be your primary caretaker in early recovery. Primary caretakers need breaks. Your caretaker might need to get out of the house for a number of reasons. So, plan on a few back up folks to offer relief. Just a two-hour visit from someone you know and trust can be a great break for your primary caregiver. Other ways to ensure your caregiver also stays healthy:
- Hire a professional caregiver for a day or two.
- Hire a nurse to look in on you the first day or two after you return home.
Step 3: Prepare your home.
What changes do you need to make in the house, before your joint replacement surgery day?
Sleeping Arrangements: If you’re having joint replacement surgery for your hip or knee you will probably need to live on one floor until you have recovered enough to climb the stairs. If your bedroom is up stairs, you’ll need to make a change. Ask your caregiver, family and / or friends to help move a bed into a designated space for sleeping. You may need to have the bed elevated for easy access post-surgery. Sturdy blocks can do the trick. The bed should be set up before your surgery day. Other things to consider about new sleeping arrangements include:
- Sleeping near a bathroom.
- Placement of nightlight(s) in the bathroom and hallway.
- Wear flat shoes or slippers.
- Remove all clutter, especially anything that could create a fall hazard, such as rugs.
Equipment: With joint replacement surgery, your surgeon may recommend a few pieces of medical equipment items like a walker, cane and bathroom equipment. Below are a few items you and your caregiver may want to have to help you ease into everyday life.
- Ice packs.
- Walker basket to serve as a carry all. This enables easier movement between rooms, fewer trips around the house and reduces requests for help.
- Reachers and grabbers. Some folks like to use reachers and grabbers to help avoid bending all the way to the floor to pick something up or stretching to a high shelf.
In the bathroom, it would help to use:
- An adjustable commode that fits over the toilet seat, allowing for an elevated fit. It’s a must for hip replacement patients.
- Having a shower seat and hand-held shower head can make the bathing experience far better.
In the kitchen, some people like to have:
- A chair with wheels, like a desk chair, to move about.
- Reachers and grabbers.
- An apron with pockets to gather cooking tools easily in one place.
As you progress in healing, having some nice things to wear might help you feel better. One or two good workout outfits, with a loose fit, just feels good. It’s nice to wear them to physical therapy.
Step 4: Stock the Pantry.
Proper nutrition is needed for healing. During the healing process, your body may need increased amounts of calories, protein, vitamins A and C, and sometimes, the mineral zinc. Eat a variety of foods to get all the calories, proteins, vitamins, and minerals you need. Also keep in mind:
- Anesthesia and pain relief medications can cause constipation. Call your doctor’s office if constipation persists more than a couple days.
- Drink eight glasses of water everyday.
Returning to Regular Life After Joint Replacement Surgery
After several days of at home recovery, it will be time for you and your caregiver to get back to life as you left it. But jumping in at full-throttle is not recommended.
Here are a few notes about things you should know as you return to regular activities.
Driving – Once you are no longer taking prescription pain medication, and your doctor clears you, you can start driving again. Until then, a caregiver or companion must do the driving.
Healthy Living – Recovery takes time. Continue going to physical therapy as recommended. Don’t forget to do the exercises at home that your physical therapist recommends. Fueling your body with nutrient dense whole foods supports the healing process, as does plenty of water and rest. Please get (at least) eight hours of sleep every night.
Work – Your body is still healing and it will be for a while. Figuring out a reasonable schedule for your work and taking periods of time to rest during the workday are important. Resting allows your body to heal. Please talk with your care team about any documentation you might need to present at work to help make your physical recovery a priority for your employer too.
Complications –If your pain level increases, you notice redness or pus at the incision site, or have a fever 101 or above for more than a few hours, please get in touch with your doctor’s office right away.