Helping your loved one after a joint replacement
Minimally invasive capabilities have really changed the game when it comes to hip and knee joint replacement surgeries: Healing time is faster, pain is noticeably reduced, incision points are smaller, and patient satisfaction remains high. While this is great news for the patient dealing with the replacement, it’s also an advantage for a spouse or loved one charged with caring for the joint recipient after the procedure takes place. Of course, no matter how advanced technology becomes, a joint replacement is still a serious procedure and should be treated as such. While a patient will soon feel back to his or her old self (or better!), it might be some time before they’re riding bikes through New York traffic, dancing the night away, or hiking rugged trails.
If you’re the caretaker for someone who has had a joint replacement, your role is vital to his or her recovery. At times, that job might feel complicated and overwhelming. Surprises will pop up, and, when you’re ready for things to just get back to normal, the process can seem slow. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make things smoother.
Preparation is key
Before the surgery, plan for the days that will follow it. Thinking ahead will save you some headaches and late-night rushes to the store. Stairs might be tough for your loved one, so make arrangements to have a bed on a lower level. Home health store items, like bath rails and grabber sticks will also come in handy. Stock up on favorite groceries (or prepare some meals that you can just toss in the oven), basic toiletries, and sit-down entertainment, like movies, books, craft supplies, and puzzles. If you have to get back to work or another commitment soon after the procedure, plan for alternative care or arrange for visits from family and friends to check in on your loved one.
You don’t need to do everything
In the first days after surgery, your loved one might appreciate you being around for even seemingly small tasks like getting dressed, bathing or grabbing a glass of water. You’ll also be needed for helping with chores, like laundry and dishes, and driving him or her around to appointments, the pharmacy, and other stops. As he or she continues to recover, however, it’s important to follow the instructions of the physical therapist assisting with rehabilitation. While a patient should take time to let things heal, coddling them instead of working the replaced joints will only be a set back, so make sure your loved one is moving and exercising as instructed.
Take time for yourself
Emotions might be running high as your loved one heals. He or she might feel overwhelmed or frustrated, medications can cause behavior changes, and being together in a confined space might be stressful. Remember that an effective caretaker also needs to take care of themselves. Get a massage, talk with a friend, practice your hobbies, go for walks or runs — and remember that soon your loved one will be back to the way he or she was before (but with less pain!)