Caregiver Tips For Injury and Post-Op Recovery
If you have ever been a caregiver for a surgical patient, you understand the great responsibility that is placed on your shoulders. Providing physical and emotional comfort as well as aiding in mobility and encouraging assisted independence are two areas that almost always takes a toll on every post-op caregiver. Although the process of going through any surgical procedure as a result of an orthopedic injury, as well as the post-operative recovery and rehabilitation, can be daunting for a patient. Knowing how to support your loved one as a caregiver can also be difficult.
As a leader in orthopedic sports medicine, Lemak Health understands some of the obstacles that people undergoing any orthopedic surgical procedure may face and offers some tips for what a caregiver can do to help make the recovery process a little easier for the patient once they return home for recovery.
The limitations that an athlete may face after encountering an injury will depend on a number of factors. Probably, most importantly, is based on the injury and treatment plan. Was a surgical procedure performed?
For example, the type of knee surgery performed greatly influences recovery times and the healing process. Some of the common surgical procedures that may limit someone's function after surgery include:
Here are 5 steps that you as a caregiver can take to prepare for and assist the person who has undergone a surgical procedure or is rehabilitating after an injury.
Make Room for Mobility
Trying to anticipate needs before surgery can make the arrival home little bit easier. Probably the most helpful thing a caregiver can do is help to prepare the home for someone who may have restrictions in their activities and may require the use of Durable Medical Equipment to aid in mobility. This may include clearing out hallways and living spaces to allow for maneuverability, rearranging furniture to allow for living on a single level. Having a living space that includes a place to sleep, a bathroom, and the kitchen on a single level can be a big help.
If there will be prolonged limitations in mobility, it may be helpful to install fixtures within the house that can help. Grab bars in the bathroom, railings along the stairs, easy entry showers, are all great is aids for supporting mobility and encouraging independence. Small victories of independence, like going to the bathroom alone, can help in the emotional road to recovery for an athlete.
The restrictions after a surgery will vary depending on the type of operation performed. However, it is not uncommon for people to require Durable Medical Equipment such as crutches or a walker, and nearly every patient will have limitations in the way they can maneuver including restrictions on their ability to drive a vehicle. These limitations may present obstacles that should be anticipated:
- How to get to therapy appointments
- How to get to doctor appointments
- How to get a prescription refill
- How to obtain groceries/go shopping
Trying to anticipate these obstacles, when they will occur, and who will be responsible for helping the patient, will help with some of the anxiety. Be aware as a caregiver that many patients do not want to ask for help. The best advice for a caregiver is to make plans to be available at these times rather than wait for a patient to ask for help.
Some of the obstacles you can plan for as a caregiver may include:
- Check for cleaning supplies and materials for wound care (
gause, alcohol, waterproof band-aids, ice packs, etc.)
- Check to make sure you have plenty of things like toilet paper, food/snacks and drinks on hand.
- Make a calendar or at least a list of all appointments and times.
Depending on the type of surgery being performed, it is not unlikely that one or more new prescriptions may be needed after the surgical procedure. Medications used after knee surgery may include pain medications, medications to reduce inflammation, blood thinning medications, etc.
Obtaining these prescriptions ahead of time and having them already at home is a big help.
Also, make sure the patient understands the directions for which medications need to be taken regularly versus those that it may only be taken as needed.
Prepare Meals and Snacks
Nutrition is imperative to the healing process. The best meals can be easily stored and quickly and easily prepared. In particular, having a few healthy options that do not require any additional preparation or that can be enjoyed straight from the fridge are particularly helpful.
It is particularly helpful for people who have had recent surgery to have someone around at mealtimes. Simply getting a meal from the kitchen to the dining space can be a challenge, so having prepared food and an extra set of hands at that time is very helpful.
Trying to prepare a meal can be very challenging for people who have had a recent knee replacement surgery and are using crutches or a walker to get around. Maneuvering around the kitchen is hard enough when having to use an ambulatory aid, and impossible if trying to carry cooking materials and food. Having pre-prepared meals that are easy to store and reheat can be a tremendous help.
Being a Good Caregiver
Do not be afraid to offer support, even if you do not have experience of being a caregiver. Now is your opportunity to provide that assistance to someone you care for.
Being a good caregiver doesn’t mean you have to stay with a patient at all times, it’s more about being available and supportive. Good caregivers will:
- Be available if an emergency occurs
- Help anticipate logistic challenges during recovery
- Be a source of support to help throughout their recovery
Sometimes caregivers need just as much support in supporting someone else. Do not feel bad for asking for assistance as you adjust to a new routine. One thing to keep in mind is having a social network of family members, friends or church members who may be able to step in and give a ride or help with chores to take some of the responsibility off of the caretaker’s shoulders.
Caregivers not only have to make sure the patient is OK, but they have to take care of themselves. There is a lot to do when caring for someone recovering from hip replacement surgery. It can become stressful and overwhelming. Being prepared and knowing what to expect will help to alleviate some of the stresses involved in the caretaking process.