Caring For A Loved One After Replacement Surgery


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Caregivers play an essential role in the lives of people having joint replacement surgery. As a caregiver, you can facilitate conversations with the doctor, help make decisions, and lend a hand during the recuperation period. Because caring for someone who has had joint replacement surgery can be taxing on you, it’s important that you don’t forget to take care of yourself during this time, too.

Talking to the doctor

Building a partnership with the doctor is crucial. It's important that you ask questions, understand your loved one's options, and make sure that you are comfortable with the recovery and rehabilitation plan. Here are some steps that may help establish good communication:

  • Prepare questions ahead of time
    Make a list of your most important concerns and problems. Issues you might want to discuss with the physician include changes in symptoms, medications, or the general health of the person you're caring for. You might also want to discuss your own comfort in your caregiving situation and the specific help you need to provide care. For thought starters, try here:
  • Enlist the help of a nurse
    Nurses are patient advocates, which means they’ll look out for you and your loved one. Your nurse may help answer questions about various tests and examinations, surgical procedures, recovery, and rehabilitation.
  • Make sure appointments meet your loved one's needs
    When you schedule appointments, be sure you clearly convey the reasons for the visit so that enough time is allowed. Schedule the appointment for a time when your loved one can be as relaxed as possible. If you or your loved one thinks of questions after the doctor leaves the room, be sure to stop and tell someone in the office. The doctor or one of the staff members can call you back with the answers.
  • Call ahead
    Before the appointment, check to see if the doctor is on schedule. Remind the receptionist of any special needs you have when you arrive at the office.

Preparing for their recovery

Knowing what to expect during your loved one's recovery and being prepared for it can help make the process a smooth one. Make sure to:

  • Fill your loved one's prescriptions
    This includes regular medications as well as pain medications. You also might want to have over-the-counter pain relievers on hand. Consult the doctor to find out which ones you should buy.
  • Get any special equipment the doctor recommends
    Your loved one may need a special toilet seat, a bathtub bench, or a cane.
  • Prepare the house for recovery
    Put regularly used items in easy-to-reach places and make sure there's nothing that would cause your loved one to slip or fall. Read the list of tips specific to the joint being replaced in "Making Your Home Recovery Ready" within each joint section.
  • Find out how long you’ll need to provide care
    The doctor can estimate how long it will take your loved one to recover.
  • Keep the wound clean
    You may be required to help change the bandage on the incision.

Communicating effectively

Being able to communicate effectively is one of your most important jobs as a caregiver. When you communicate in ways that are clear and assertive, you are more likely to be heard and get the help and support you need. Here are some basic guidelines for good communication:

  • Express your feelings without blaming others or causing them to become defensive; use I rather than you
  • Respect the rights and feelings of others
  • Be clear and specific; don't assume the person will guess what you need
  • Be a good listener

Taking care of yourself

Caregivers should expect to provide many kinds of help, from grocery shopping to helping with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, and eating. When caring for a loved one after joint replacement surgery, it's also important for you to remember to take care of your own health. It is not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a caregiver—it’s an important part of the job. You are responsible for your care first. Remember to:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get enough sleep
  • Make time for regular exercise
  • Stay in touch with friends and other family members
  • Maintain outside interests
  • Recognize when you need help and ask for it
  • Manage stress

Last Updated: Dec. 15, 2010 © 2011 Zimmer, Inc. (owner of site) version 6.0


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