returning home after knee surgery

You’ve finally decided to move ahead with the elective knee replacement surgery you’ve been avoiding for the past two years.

You’ll be entering the hospital in a few weeks and expect to return home without a stay in a sub-acute rehabilitation facility. So what can you do before hand to make your transition home easier? What arrangements need to be made?

Gerry Joyner, Director of Social Work at Wartburg in Mount Vernon suggests you consider the following:

First, talk to your doctor and find out the expected length of your hospital stay. Let your doctor know who to call in the event of an emergency. Have your advance healthcare directive or healthcare proxy placed in your healthcare provider’s records before you go in for any surgery.

Have someone pick up your mail or have the Post Office hold it. You will also want to set up automatic bill paying or pay your bills in advance in case you have an unexpected extended hospital stay.

Make arrangements for your pets to be taken care of during your hospital stay and for an extra week since it can be challenging caring for a pet when you’ve just returned home from surgery.

Joyner advises that you plan in advance for some mobility impairment:

  • If your bedroom isn’t already on the ground level of your home, set up a temporary sleeping space so you can avoid stairs when you return home.
  • Before surgery, prepare and freeze easy to reheat meals since standing for any length of time will be difficult.
  • Remove all scatter rugs and declutter your floors to avoid tripping hazards before you go to the hospital.
  • Get a shower bench and install grab bars to make bathing less painful and safer.
  • Install night lights leading from your bed to the bathroom and the kitchen.
  • Buy the equipment your doctor recommends, such as a cane.

Take the time to fully understand the information the discharge planner and the hospital case manager share with you. If you are under Medicare, expect a visit from a registered nurse within 24 to 48 hours of discharge. She will assess your needs for physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy when appropriate, and a home health aide.

With knee replacement, Medicare will cover physical therapy for two to six weeks, three times a week. A home health aide will help with showering, dressing, and other activities of daily life. (You may need to arrange for private hire if you need more help or aren’t covered under Medicare.)  An occupational therapist will help with some of these activities as well.

Joyner cautions that you should transition off any prescribed pain medication as quickly as possible. She also notes that good pre-planning will go a long way in recovering from surgery.

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