The thought of undergoing joint replacement surgery is daunting enough without the worry of how you’ll manage after the operation. To help put your mind at ease, try these tactics to ensure a smooth transition from hospital to home:
Learn about your surgery. Knowing what to expect can help you cut down on worry and can even reduce your perception of pain. Ask your surgeon how long the procedure normally takes, how much pain to expect post-op and how to manage it. If you’re still nervous, ask him or her to suggest relaxation exercises or music or to prescribe a medication to help calm you. Ask, too, about recovery and how long it may be before you’re back on your feet.
Find out what to quit. If you smoke, stop about a month before surgery. Avoid alcohol for at least two days before and ask your surgeon which of your medicines—including over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and supplements—you need to modify or stop. For instance, aspirin and vitamin E can affect blood clotting, so you should stop them a few days before surgery; stop steroids a few months before the operation, since they can limit your ability to heal.
Designate a contact person. Your surgeon and other surgical staff will need to know who to update about your condition or contact in case of emergency. Provide hospital staff with your designated contact’s name, address and phone number.
Create a medical information file. Place a list of all your previous surgeries and conditions plus allergies and diet restrictions in a file. List, too, all the medications you take and why, as well as OTC drugs and supplements. Bring the file with you on the day of surgery for a smooth admission process.
Take care of business. Add a folder to your medical information file with a copy of your insurance card or policy and your living will if you have one. If you don’t have a living will or other advance directive, consider making one; your primary healthcare provider can help.
Think about saving your blood. Since blood transfusions may be necessary, you may want to save and use your own blood. Your surgeon can help you with this process.
Shape up. Being fit before surgery shortens recovery time. Ask your healthcare provider about exercises for toning your muscles and increasing endurance.
Plan for homecoming. Because driving, shopping and performing your usual routine may be difficult after surgery, plan to have household help. If you live alone, you may need to hire home-care service. You may also want to shop for items that will maximize your independence, such as a long-handled sponge for bathing or a grabbing tool. The better you can plan, the easier coming home will be.