Planning Your Home Health Care After Surgery

Published March 21, 2016

Steve, a 52-year old certified public accountant, inherited his father’s good looks, his sense of humor, and his arthritis of the hip. Like his dad, by the time Steve reached middle age, his health began to decline because he could no longer exercise. He needed a total hip replacement. His surgeon told Steve he’d spend two to three days in the hospital, and then he could stay a few days in a rehabilitation facility or get a visiting nurse to help him at home. Given his particular circumstances, Steve decided his best option was to complete his post-operative care at home with a visiting nurse.

For people like Steve, relatively young and in good physical health with family at home, healing at home can be a good choice. Preparations for the time at home may be minor in those cases, and extra hands can make short work of things like shopping and prescription pick-ups. However, there are quite a few people who want or need to do a few things to ready the home for home-care before ever having the operation or procedure.

Before Your Procedure: Preparing Your Home for Improved Recovery

Although there are going to be different steps for different situations, there are some things that can be done to make the home ready for rehabilitation:

  • Clean. It might sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget things when you’re worrying about surgery. Start by picking things up off the floor that might trip someone, and moving cords (such as those from lamps or phone chargers) out of all walking paths.
  • Tip: We know you’re busy already, so remember you don’t need to clean like your in-laws are coming over. Focus on the room the patient will inhabit – generally the bedroom or a living room – and the path between that room and the bathroom.
  • Move things. Spend a couple of days making a list of the things you use in the morning, day, evening, and night (e.g., toothbrush, water glass, contact lens solution). Before you leave the house for surgery, you should make sure to set these things out on counters, nightstands, etc. You won’t feel like (or maybe be able to) reaching into cabinets and digging around in drawers when you get home.
  • Make space. Depending on your unique situation, you may have certain types of physical therapy to do at home. Talk to your doctor about this in advance, and move furniture and other obstacles, rugs, or sliding and tripping hazards out of the way.
  • Shop ahead. Think about the number of days you’re likely to be unable to drive or go shopping for food and home necessities, then double it and shop for that length of time. Include things that are non-perishable and easy to open, eat, prepare, and digest. Include things that are bland, like unsalted soda crackers and pop-top canned soup.
  • Buddy up. Get a friend or family member to attend doctor appointments with you and assist with home preparations. It’s important that someone else has the information needed to get you to and from the hospital, and to ride out the post-anesthesia wave when you first get home.
  • Talk to your doctor. Don’t wait until the last minute for this. Your doctor is the one who knows what to expect from your surgery and what you’ll need at home to heal. Make a list of questions to take with you to your pre-operative appointment, and jot down the answers during the appointment so you don’t forget. If you’re nervous or unsure of anything, bring it up!

The Day of Surgery: What to Expect Before You Go Home

Although facilities function a bit differently, in general on the day of surgery, a care coordinator at the hospital will come to your room and inform you about the status of preparing you for discharge after the operation. They will discuss your insurance coverage, visiting nursing needs/arrangements, and in-home therapy details. The care coordinator will work with you to assess your needs and identify the best agency to care for you after leaving the hospital.

After Surgery: Leaving the Hospital and Going Home

When you’re ready to go home, whether it’s the same day or several days after your operation, your care coordinator should already have arranged your visiting nurse and physical therapist visits. They should also have already ordered the equipment you need. That might include things like crutches, braces, and portable, commodes.

Once you’re home, you should get calls and visits from the professionals your care coordinator arranged, and you will likely receive printed and/or digital patient education materials. You will get instructions on what to do to make your recovery fast and effective.

The Advantages of Home Care

In addition to the comfort of living in familiar surroundings during your recovery, home care can often cost less and come with fewer risks than in-facility care. You’ll sleep better and, if you can follow your doctor’s rehab regimen, you can heal more quickly. Just remember to discuss your options with your doctor and take precautions around the house if you want to get the most out of healing at home.