If you have a loved one who needs joint replacement, you should know that having a hip or knee replaced is a major surgery. Recovery and rehabilitation after these procedures takes time, and the process can be very intense. That means that your loved one will need help and care after surgery, particularly during the first two weeks when their mobility will be limited and pain levels will be high. To help both of you get through this trying time, we've put together some general information on caring for a loved one after joint replacement surgery.
What Will Your Loved One Need From You?
The needs of patients after joint replacement surgery will vary to some degree from one patient to another, influenced by factors that include their state of overall health and physical fitness before surgery, their age and which joint they've had replaced, among many others. That said, here is what you can expect the average patient to need help with during those first two weeks after surgery.
- Getting around – Your loved one will likely need some help and support while getting in and out of a seated position, getting into bed and moving around from room to room.
- Personal care – Joint replacement patients typically need some assistance with tasks like bathing and dressing, and may require some assistance using the bathroom – getting into the bathroom, for instance, or getting onto and off of the toilet.
- Household help – Your loved one will need help with tasks like shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry and errands.
- Medical follow-up and rehabilitation therapy appointments – Joint replacement patients won't be driving right away, so chances are you'll be in charge of getting your loved one to doctor's appointments and rehab therapy sessions. Additionally, you'll likely need to help keep track of all those appointments as your loved one deals with the day-to-day challenges of recovery.
Depending upon the particular circumstances of your loved one, you may also find yourself assisting with the management of medications, the care of wounds and dressings, and communication with his or her health care team. Your loved one may also need assistance with managing his or her finances during recovery, or keeping track of health insurance paperwork.
How Long Can You Expect To Be Needed?
This too varies from one patient to another. However, you can definitely count on your loved one needing a lot of care during the first few days after hospital discharge, and assistance with personal care, household tasks and transportation for at least two weeks. Many patients will need help for at least 4 to 6 weeks, and some – especially senior patients or those with other health issues – may need as much as 3 to 6 months of rehabilitation to regain pre-surgery levels of mobility and independence. Your loved one's health care team can help you gain a bit of insight on how much care he or she will need after surgery and how long recovery and rehabilitation may take.
Last, but certainly not least, as you care for your loved one, providing moral support and encouragement may be your most important role in helping him or her recover from joint replacement surgery. There will be discomfort, pain and frustration as your loved one works towards recovery, and rehabilitation therapy is a long, hard process. Keeping motivation and spirits high during that process can be challenge, one that will require lots of love and support from you, as well as other family members and friends.