Having surgery is a big deal for the patient AND their caregiver. This blog is dedicated to the caregivers. They are the unsung heroes of icing the pain, keeping the snacks at hand and squashing the compaining as much as they can. I recently went through this...twice...and learned alot from a different perspective. Here's how I stayed sane:
- Tip 1: Check your furniture layout
Your loved one has gone through a pre-op visit to better understand what to expect from surgery. This is when you need to prepare for when you bring them home. If they will be using crutches, walker, knee roller or wheelchair, will any of those things require you move furniture? Play with the devices and see where the problems could arise. Think...can they get to the toilet as quickly as possible if I'm not immediately available? That's a big one.
- Tip 2: Bathing is a must
Often with foot or ankle surgery, we ask the patient not to get the surgery site wet until stitches come out or they are out of a cast. If they are in a cast, that can be 4-6 weeks. So find out beforehand what its going to take to get them clean on a daily basis. Walk in showers with seats work well to elevate a leg. Shower tubs work well because you can prop their leg up on the tub while they bathe. Both require a shower seat. If neither works, use a shower seat in a large bath tub. If you don't have a hand held shower head, now would be the time to install it. If that doesn't fit your situation, go to Petsmart and buy a dog washing kit. Sounds crazy, but it works great. It is a hose that attaches to your tub faucet that turns it into a shower head. Remember in all of this, the foot must stay dry. In the event their cast or dressing gets wet, call our office immediately! We will get them taken care of.
- Tip 3: Feed them or they get cranky
It is very important to have on hand some of their favorites as well as some healthy options for food. Don't expect to feed them much they night you bring them home. Even if they want a greasy cheeseburger, think of something you are less likely to see again within 30 minutes of them eating it - Ew! By the next day, they are more free to eat a normal diet. Have on hand: Ginger Ale, Sprite, or 7-UP, crackers and nausea medication. If they are diabetic, serve appropriate meals. If their surgery is later in the day, have something waiting at home to eat, so you don't have to stop with them in the car.
- Tip 4: Make them drink a lot of water
Before surgery, they can't eat or drink anything. Which dehydrates them. The anesthesia medications dehydrate them. Then they start taking a narcotic medication that dehydrates them. All of this is a set up for severe constipation if you don't get them drinking water. I suggest one gallon of water per day until they are very regular. Plus the fluid just makes them feel better.
- Tip 5: Love them
If it's their first surgery or their 10th, there is always discomfort or pain somewhere on them. So it takes a few days for them to feel better. Then they are stuck using some sort of device that slows them down. This makes them frustrated. Just love them! Let them know you are there for them and happy to help -- even if you do want to leave the house and never come back!
Being prepared for everything you can think of really helps reduce the stress for both of you. If you as a caregiver have any questions during the patient's recovery process, please call us. We have all been there!