Many seniors have to undergo some kind of surgery as they get older, whether it’s a simple outpatient procedure or an involved triple bypass surgery. Proper preparation is necessary if you want to have the smoothest, easiest recovery possible. Here are seven things that you should do for better surgery recovery:
Take care of everything ahead of time.
You don’t want to get home from your surgery, only to discover that you are missing a crucial item. In the days before your procedure, assemble anything you think you might need: post surgery clothing, shoes for swollen feet, heat and ice packs, supportive pillows, food that is easy to reheat, a tablet with TV shows downloaded on it — whatever you think you might want or need. Cover the practical stuff, but also make sure that you also have some easy entertainment to keep yourself occupied. Resting after surgery will be much more difficult if you are bored and restless.
Arrange to have a caretaker.
Even if you’re having minor surgery, you probably won’t feel 100 percent in the hours and days following it. Simple tasks such as microwaving a frozen meal can feel like climbing a mountain after surgery, especially if you are woozy or in pain. Arrange to have a friend or family member act as your caretaker directly after the surgery so you don’t have to drive yourself home or worry about making meals right after the procedure. If your surgery is very complicated, you might also want to look into hiring professional help, such as a private nurse, who can provide post-surgical medical care should you need it.
Follow your doctor’s instructions.
Before you go home, your doctor will provide you with a list of after-care instructions, including how to care for the wound and how soon you can resume activities like bathing and walking. Each incision site will be different, which is why you and your caretakers need to pay close attention. For example, some stitches will dissolve on their own while others will need to be taken out at a follow-up appointment. Make sure to follow your doctor’s specific instructions for your surgery type and incision site to keep your risks of infection and complications low.
Take your medications properly.
You will likely be given some kind of medication (and sometimes several) that will help manage pain and inflammation after the surgery. Ask your doctor if you can pick up the prescription the day before the surgery so that it will be ready for you when you get home. If they won’t call in the prescription early, you might be able to pick it up from the hospital pharmacy so you don’t have to make an extra stop at the drugstore on the way home. Review the labels with your caretaker so that you both know how much medication to take and when to take it, as well as any potential side effects or interactions with other drugs to be aware of.
Don’t push yourself too fast, too soon.
You may start feeling well pretty soon after the surgery and be tempted to resume certain activities before your doctor has cleared you to do so. No matter how good you feel, resist the temptation to push yourself. You can end up reopening the wound, straining a muscle or organ, exposing yourself to infection or otherwise jeopardizing your recovery. Sometimes you might feel good and push yourself to do something, only to discover after the fact that you weren’t ready for the activity after all — but by then it’s too late. That’s why it’s better to take it easy early on than to push yourself beyond your limits and then experience a serious setback.
Eat healthy and stay hydrated.
Your body needs nutrients to help fuel it as you recover from your procedure, and the best way to get those nutrients is through your diet. You may have limitations on what you can eat after the procedure — for instance, only soft foods for the first few days — but try to work within those parameters to select foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein. Also make sure to stay hydrated, which will help keep your body’s systems humming along and also reduce your chances of becoming constipated (a common but still unpleasant side effect of surgery). If you have trouble drinking from a regular cup, use one with a straw instead.
Know when to call your doctor (or the ER).
Most people recover from surgery with few complications. However, in some cases, you will need to see the doctor again, or even go to the ER. Here are some signs that you’re experiencing a medical emergency and need to seek help immediately:
· Sudden bleeding or an increase in bleeding
· An increase in pain rather than a decrease
· Maintaining a fever above 101
· Swelling, redness and pus around the incision site (signs of infection)
· Your stomach or leg becoming painful, red and swollen (signs of deep vein thrombosis, which can be life-threatening)
You should also reach out to your doctor if you experience other less serious but ongoing complications. These may include issues using the bathroom or memory loss after anesthesia that lasts more than a few days. Your doctor will be able to tell you whether these side effects are normal or not and help you find an appropriate course of treatment for them.
Being proactive before your surgery will allow you to sit back and relax at home once your procedure is over. Do these seven things before you need to don your hospital gown for the surgery and you’ll have an easier time recovering at home.