Home after Joint Replacement Surgery
Get educated and prepared for joint replacement surgery to lower anxiety and improve the outcome.
If you are having joint replacement surgery, it’s likely that you’ll be going home soon after the surgery, possibly even the next day. Fewer and fewer people go to a rehabilitation facility, and that’s for the best. Studies are showing that people who undergo joint replacement recover just as well at home.
Does that cause anxiety for you and your family? If the hospital where you will have the surgery offers a preop education class, Karen Sanchez, RN, a nurse at Cleveland Clinic’s Lutheran Hospital, recommends taking it.
“Patients often have just 10 or 15 minutes in the surgeon’s office, and that’s not enough time to go through everything,” says Sanchez, who offers a two-hour preop course for patients and their families.
Understand the Procedure
In her class, Sanchez provides a thorough explanation of the surgery and the implants. She wants people to understand the mechanics of it, so they can appreciate the reasons for restrictions after surgery.
“We’re really good at telling people what to do and what not to do, but we often don’t tell them why,” says Sanchez.
She goes into detail, explaining where the incision will be and where the pain will be. “The pain is not just at the site of the incision,” she says. And it helps to know why.
Get the Home Ready
“If people aren’t going to rehab, they need a safe environment at home,” says Sanchez. She educates patients on how to get their homes ready, including equipment, such as a raised toilet seat, grabbers and walkers.
She warns people that routine activities can be more difficult, especially while taking sedating pain medications. Clear clutter, and take up scatter rugs. Put everything you’ll need in the kitchen on the counter so you don’t have to bend.
Figure out ahead of time how you’ll get your meals if you don’t have someone to cook for you. “I had a lady in class who whenever she cooked a meal before the surgery cooked two and froze one,” says Sanchez.
Get Your Body Ready
Sanchez emphasizes the importance of getting your body ready. “Exercise is not something you do just for rehabilitation,” she says. You need to make it a part of your daily routine, and it starts before surgery.
Try to be as active as possible because it will help with recovery. “Don’t start a new exercise program, but at least move around the house,” says Sanchez. After surgery your muscles will be in better shape for the physical therapy.
Good nutrition is also important. “You need food for energy,” says Sanchez, “but you also need it for wound healing.” A wound that doesn’t heal well is susceptible to infection. In addition to an overall healthy diet, she recommends eating foods high in iron. She also advises people with less healthy diets to drink nutritional shakes, such as Ensure®, before and after surgery.
Tell your healthcare provider about any medical issues before surgery, even if it’s something you don’t want to talk about. Sanchez encounters patients who take opioids and other drugs they haven’t been prescribed or who are heavy drinkers. “We’re not making judgments,” says Sanchez. “But we need to know so it can be dealt with and the pain adequately managed.”