Prepare for Going Home After Surgery
By Mary Anne Dunkin
Make a few practical post-surgery preparations before to going to the hospital. What to expect after you’re home.
Much of your preparation will depend on your surgery, the type of arthritis you have, which joints are affected, other health problems and how much help you have at home. Taking the time well before your surgery to prepare for your discharge will do wonders to help ease your transition after you check out. The checklist below is a guideline to help you prepare for your homecoming and the weeks of recovery that follow.
Before You Check In
1. Consult an expert
2. Prepare your home for your return
If your insurance won’t cover that service, here are some things you can do on your own at home:
- Eliminate clutter - Clear the floors of throw rugs, electrical cords, kids’ toys, etc. Have furniture moved to make pathways wide enough for a walker.
- Elevate chairs and beds - If you’ve had hip replacement, you’ll have restrictions on how much you can bend your new joint until the tissues around it heal. If your bed is low, have someone place blocks under the legs to raise it.
- Make living convenient - Consider what you’ll need when you return home and place items where you can access them easily – pots, pans and dinner plates on the kitchen counter; the TV remote next to your cozy chair. Stock your pantry and freezer before you leave for the hospital. Prepare meals in advance and freeze them. If your mail is delivered to an outdoor mailbox, contact your post office to request delivery directly to your door.
- Set up sleeping arrangements - If your bedroom is on the second floor, set up a temporary one downstairs. If that’s not possible, limit your trips upstairs – once at bedtime, then back down in the morning.
- Get the bathroom ready - If you’re having hip replacement, an elevated toilet seat is a must. Place an adjustable commode over your regular toilet seat. Get a shower seat and hand-held showerhead for the shower.
3. Order assistive devices and other supplies
Here are some devices experts recommend:
- TED hose - These specialized, tight-fitting stockings prevent blood clots from forming in your legs after a joint replacement. You’ll need to put them on every morning when you get up and take them off each night before you go to bed. You can purchase them from medical supply stores.
- Ice packs - Ice packs will help ease pain and inflammation at the incision site. Put them in the freezer before you leave for the hospital. You can purchase ice packs, use bags of frozen peas or make an ice pack by freezing three parts water to one part rubbing alcohol in a freezer bag.
- Proper attire - You’ll want loose clothing that’s easy to get on and off. Some nice outfits instead of sweats may give you a mental boost.
- Chair on wheels - You won’t need a wheelchair, but you may benefit from an office chair with wheels that will make it easier to get around in the kitchen.
- Carry all - A walker basket can help you carry things when you need your hands for a walker. Or try an apron with large pockets, which will also work when you advance to a cane.
- Reachers and grabbers - Check your medical supply store for devices that can help you do daily tasks with minimal stretching and bending. You’ll need help reaching items on high shelves, picking things up off the floor, and pulling up socks.
4. Arrange for help
5. Plan your transportation home
Having the right ride is important. Most experts recommend a large sedan, SUV or minivan, especially for hip replacement patients, who will have restrictions on how they can move with their new joint. While some experts say it’s OK to stretch out on the back seat, particularly for a long car ride, sitting in the front seat with the seat back as far as it will go may be preferable.
If you don’t have someone to drive you home, some taxi services have handicapped accessible vehicles. Your discharge specialist can arrange your ride. In some states, Medicaid covers transportation home from the hospital.
What to Expect at Home
If you have concerns beyond these normal feelings, speak with your doctor or other health professional. Or touch base with others you know who have had the procedure; they probably had many of the same feelings and challenges.
Do little things to improve your mood, like getting dressed each day instead of hanging out in your pajamas, using downtime to call or write to friends, or watching comedies.
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