Recovery from surgery is often painful and uncomfortable — but there are steps you can take to make it better. If you have an elderly loved one who is undergoing a procedure soon, follow these seven steps to make them more comfortable at home following the surgery:
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Get them comfortable clothes.
Your loved one will need to get changed out of their hospital gown before they can go home, but their regular clothes might not be appropriate or comfortable for surgery recovery. Clothing made of heavy fabrics with stiff seams can cause chafing and trap sweat. Any garments that rub put pressure on the incision site will also slow the healing process and potentially cause complications. Depending on what kind of surgery they had and where the incision is, you might want to get them post–surgery clothing that is specially designed to support the healing process and promote comfort.
Figure out their sleeping situation.
After a surgery, it may not be comfortable or even advisable to sleep in a bed directly after the procedure. Some people may even find it impossible to get in and out of a bed, depending on what their mobility is like. In this case, sleeping in a reclining chair can make it easier to get up. Even if they can get in bed, they may need to sleep propped up with a wedge pillow or another specialty pillow. Experiment around with different combinations to see what is most comfortable for them. The first few days or weeks are likely to be the most difficult and, over time, they will probably be able to transition back to sleeping in a bed.
Maintain a pleasant temperature.
Elderly people’s bodies already have a tough time maintaining a balanced temperature — they tend to run cold — and surgery can further upset that. You should brainstorm ways to both cool them down and warm them up during the recovery period, such as blankets and ice packs. It’s pretty common to experience a mild fever or to feel a bit cold directly after surgery (general anesthesia can drop your overall body temperature). However, if your loved one is experiencing chills and shaking and/or has a fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit, you should call the doctor immediately, as this could be a sign of potential infection.
Stock up on medications.
Pain management is one of the utmost important things in the wake of the surgery, and medications are a big part of that. Your loved one will almost certainly have multiple prescriptions they are supposed to take after the surgery. Keep a schedule of their dosages and make sure to give them each medication on time. You can ask the doctor if they will approve the prescriptions the day before the surgery so you can go onward and pick them up and have them waiting at home. Also, be proactive about renewing the medications as needed so they do not run out of painkillers. The doctor will also likely provide a list of useful over-the-counter medications to keep on hand, so be sure to choice those up ahead of time, too.
Plan ahead on meals.
Your elderly loved one may already have dietary restrictions, and they may have even more dietary guidelines after surgery. You should always check with the surgical team for specific recommendations about what they should and shouldn’t eat after surgery. In general, you will want to feed them healthy foods high in nutrients and lean proteins to help nourish their body and fuel their recovery. Eating foods high in fiber can also aid encourage bowel movements, as constipation is a common side effect of anesthesia. Try to plan out some meals and do the shopping and prep ahead of time so that you don’t have to anxiety about cooking while you are trying to get your loved one settled after the hospital. You can also outsource this and ask friends and family in the area to set up a meal train, though you might need to provide guidance on the recipes.
Keep them entertained.
Your loved one will likely be tired and want to sleep a lot after the surgery. However, they will still have plenty of waking hours where they will need to pass the time. They likely won’t have the brainpower or the attention span for anything serious, so try to get them set up with some light and easy entertainment that will while away the hours without stressing them out. Comedic movies and TV shows are a good choice, as are feel-good novels. You can pre-download these on a tablet or record them on the TV so they are ready to go whenever your loved one feels up to watching or reading something. Try to steer them away from news channels, sporting matches, and other entertainment they may potentially find stressful.
Have a plan for personal hygiene.
Personal hygiene can be a bit tricky after surgery. Your loved one may struggle to use the restroom and wash or dress themselves. They might also have restrictions on bathing, which can get the surgery site wet and compromise the incision. Talk with the surgical team about helping your relative with personal care activities after the surgery. For example, you might need to replace showers with sponge baths for a few days to protect the incision site. You might also need to invest in some tools, such as shower chairs and toilet seat risers, that will help keep your loved one safe. Even if they can’t do their full hygiene routine, just washing their face and brushing their teeth can help them feel more fresh and comfortable after they get home from the hospital.
Follow these tips to promote surgery recovery and help your elderly loved one feel comfortable at home following a procedure. Good luck with the surgery and we wish them a safe and speedy recovery!