When it comes to surgeries, we always hope for the best, but we should also prepare for some things in advance. When individuals undergo surgical procedures, they may need more help, and we should be ready. Scrambling to find help or mobility aids in a pinch can add unnecessary stress and safety risks.
Here are some things to think about to help your loved one prepare:
Mobility and accessibility-Will they be able to get around independently after returning from the hospital?
If your loved one will require a wheelchair or walker after a major operation, make sure they have these items available before they leave the hospital. Whether prescribed from the doctor and purchased via Medicare or borrowed, make sure they have what they need to be safe.
Be sure that their home is accessible. Leave enough room between furniture to accommodate safe mobility and pick up the throw rugs to reduce their risk for injuries or falls.
Move any items they might need down to where they can easily reach. Easy access to their phone, bottles of water, snacks, or the TV remote will all help.
Find out if they will need any durable medical equipment like grab bars in their bathroom, a shower chair/hand-held shower, a positioning rail to reposition in bed, bed risers for getting into bed, or any other items. Having these things installed/available immediately after their procedure will be helpful.
Medications-The American Society of Anesthesiologists shared that seniors are at an increased risk for complications after surgery. This includes potential for post-operative confusion and disorientation, cognitive dysfunction, and even long-term memory loss.
Caregivers can help their loved ones stay safe by managing their medications after surgery. Ask their doctor what to expect as the anesthesia wears off, how long it will take, and what the person will feel like, so you can assess how long you should plan to help.
Learn all the details of medications they must take after the surgery. Understand what dosages to provide and when, as well as what side effects to keep an eye out for. You can greatly reduce your loved one’s stress by taking care of their prescriptions for a few days after the surgery. This will allow them to have some recovery time and feel closer to normal before resuming typical activities.
Arrival and pick up- Remember that surgery is not as simple as a clinic visit.
Make sure there is someone to bring your loved one to the hospital at the predetermined time, as well as to pick them up when the surgery is over.
Know the surgery schedule so you can ensure they arrive with plenty of time to fill out pre-op paperwork and go through admittance procedures. Also, ask the doctor about what to expect after the surgery. Oftentimes, senior patients will stay in recovery a bit longer because the anesthesia can wear off more slowly, and because it’s riskier for them. You may be able to be in the recovery room with them following the operation as they are waking up and become alert.
Eating and drinking-Many surgeries have strict rules on patients eating and drinking before and after the procedure.
Your loved one may not be able to eat or drink for up to 24 hours ahead of surgery. Make sure you understand this process and encourage them to follow the direction as well. In the event they do accidentally eat or drink, call the hospital right away to discuss it with their doctor/surgical staff. It may require them to reschedule the surgery, or simply that you help them remember not to eat or drink anything else.
Once the procedure is over, the doctor may have some special diet requirements. That could mean eating only soft foods, for example. Be sure to help them have easy access to the foods they should eat and encourage them to follow the post-op instructions. Proper nutrition can impact healing.
What about after surgery? Before the procedure, find out what they will need to do afterward. Will they require a return visit to the hospital soon after? If so, can they drive, or should you plan to take them or arrange a ride?
Will they require special wound care at home, and if so, can you complete that, or will they require outside help? Ask for a walk-thru if you would like help in making sure you can properly care for their wound.
Ask the doctor about home healthcare. Sometimes, patients may qualify through Medicare for nurse visits from an RN to visit their home to help them with wound care or with medication management. Your loved one may also qualify for in-home outpatient therapy from a physical or occupational therapist to help them regain strength or to regain independence with activities following surgery. The doctor may order this which can allow you to find providers before surgery, so they’re prepared in advance to help after discharge.