Making Orthopedic Recovery Safer & Easier at Home
If you have ever broken a bone, chances are you have met an orthopedist. Orthopedists and orthopedic surgeons are specialists that handle the disorders, injuries, prevention, treatment, and repair of the skeletal system and its related joints, ligaments, and muscles.
Common orthopedic surgical procedures include joint replacement such as a knee or hip, a fusion, as well as procedures done in an emergency like an injury after a fall.
After an orthopedic procedure, which may be done in-patient at the hospital or outpatient at the hospital or surgical center, you may be discharged to one of three options:
- Skilled Nursing Facility
- Rehabilitation Facility
Where you are discharged will depend on your overall health, intricacies of the procedure and your situation and support system.
Many surgeons are discharging patients to their home instead of a rehab facility because outcomes are better when you are in the comfort and familiarity of your own home. Benefits include:
- Home is safer than the hospital, due to the risk of a hospital-acquired infection
- You sleep better in your own bed, which helps the body heal
- Keeping your schedule
A professional caregiver can make the return to home easier and safer by having someone care for you or your loved one with one-on-one attention for a few hours to around the clock. They help ensure safety, good nutrition, medication reminders and companionship.
Plan Your Post-Surgical Experience
While one can never predict the outcome of a surgical procedure, since most procedures are pre-scheduled you can control the experience you have when you return home.
When discussing an orthopedic procedure, returning home requires some planning so you or your loved one can remain safe.
Fall prevention is an important consideration to keep the work of the surgeon intact and preventing a new injury.
A caregiver can assist with the activities of daily living such as bathing to help reduce the risk of a slip and fall in the shower. They can also assist with meal preparation so the person who was operated on does not have to worry about maneuvering around the kitchen being sore or with new equipment like a walker.
New medications, recovering from anesthesia and the procedure itself can make a person dizzy, lightheaded or unbalanced making them a fall risk. Having someone in the home for several days afterward ensures that someone will be by their side as they move around.
A professional caregiver is trained to assist with ambulation and safe transfer to help prevent a fall. They can contact guard or have a reassuring hand on the person to ensure their balance.
Making sure the durable medical equipment, such as a rollator or walker, the doctor ordered is being used properly is also key to preventing a fall. A caregiver can encourage the use of these devices.
Some simple changes can be made to the home to prevent falls, ideally before entering the operating room. They include:
- Removal of clutter
- Removal of throw rugs (HUGE trip hazards!)
- Adding night lights where the person will be sleeping and on the path to the bathroom and kitchen
- Make sure slippers fit well and have anti-skid soles
- Move common items that are usually a reach to lower shelves that are more accessible to reduce the need to stretch and eliminate the need for a step stool.
Other changes include:
- Shifting the sleeping arrangements so the person is on the main level of the home and temporarily does not have to navigate stairs
- Moving their sleeping arrangements closer to the bathroom for ease of access
- Replacing toilets with “comfort height” models, which are higher than a standard toilet to make getting up and down easier
- Temporary removing shower doors, which are not designed for the weight of a person.
It is easy to add safety equipment to a home to reduce the risk of a fall. In most cases, medical equipment is covered by insurance.
The staff at the doctor’s office or the social worker at the hospital can order the equipment so it is waiting for them when they get home.
Ideally, any medical equipment should be ordered before the procedure so it can be waiting in place when the person comes home. Installing it before surgery also allows the person to learn how it functions properly before they are impaired by pain or medications.
Equipment may include:
- Grab bars in the shower
- Shower seat
- Grab bars by the toilet
- Bed rails
- Lift chair
- Hospital bed
- Temporary ramps