Recovering from surgery can be an incredibly challenging experience. Unfortunately, many patients struggle physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Receiving the right support is crucial.
That said, if your loved one is about to undergo surgery, you may be finding it difficult to anticipate her needs.
The type of support you should provide will depend largely on the type of surgery she’s having. A knee replacement will likely cause major mobility challenges, while a mastectomy may have a stronger emotional impact. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules.
Once home, your loved one may experience a whole range of side effects she wasn’t prepared for. One of the best things you can do during this time is be ready to listen. Beyond that, here are five tips for helping to make life better during the recovery process.
1) Lend a hand
It probably goes without saying, but providing postoperative support for a loved one is likely to involve helping with chores.
You may want to start by prepping your family member’s home for his return after he’s discharged from the hospital. This could mean cleaning or stocking up on groceries. It could mean ensuring that all necessary medical supplies are easily accessible. Whatever you can do to reduce your loved one’s stress (and your own) will be immensely helpful.
Of course, many chores and tasks will need to be done on a regular basis once he’s back home. Stopping by regularly to cook a meal, pay a bill, or administer medication can make life easier for your loved one.
If your schedule is packed, enlist the help of other family members. You may also want to consider consulting professional help. A cleaning service or financial consultant can really lighten the load. And if you have the means, private home care may be helpful in some situations.
2) Stay in the know
In a recent Medscape study, only one fourth of patients understood their discharge instructions.
There are many potential reasons a patient might not comprehend what she’s told after she leaves the hospital. As just one example, complex written instructions can cause problems for those with low literacy skills.
But another common issue is the mental states of patients. In the context of postoperative care, this is an important consideration. Think about the confusion and fear most people feel before and after surgery. Consider the mental fog that often accompanies fatigue and the use of pain medication.
You can help by remaining as clearheaded as possible. Act as an extra set of eyes and ears so that your loved one doesn’t second guess her self-care instructions when she gets home.
Of course, it’s not just about providing at-home support. Staying informed about your family member’s condition will allow you to act as her advocate.
If she welcomes your help, take the time to communicate with your loved one’s doctors, nurses, and other health providers. Doing so will allow you to ensure her wishes are taken into account.
3) Be there
Most of us have been impacted by loneliness at one time or another. And increasingly, studies are showing that being alone can have very serious health consequences.
Your loved one may not be socially isolated. But after his surgery, there’s a good chance his mobility will be seriously affected. He may also feel embarrassed about side effects, or he may be in too much pain to leave the house. As a result, he’ll probably be seeing fewer people, less often.
This is why many people recovering from major health procedures start to feel abandoned. Suddenly, close friends and family members aren’t around as much. At a time when staying positive and feeling motivated are extremely important, reduced social contact can be psychologically difficult.
You can help by visiting as often as you can—and encouraging family members to do the same. When in-person visits aren’t possible, phone calls can help. Connecting via video can be even more valuable, as it will allow your family member to see the smiling faces of those who care about him.
Above all, listen to the person in recovery. It can be tempting to offer continuous, general reassurance. But you’ll be in a better position to provide support if you hear your loved one’s worries and concerns.
4) Harness the power of technology
There’s no question that computers and digital technology have made life easier. It’s never been easier to connect with people and share information.
If you’re providing care and support for a loved one, it’s important to get organized. And technology can help you do that.
Consider using Excel or another spreadsheet software to keep track of care-related expenses. When multiple family members are involved in providing support, creating a Facebook group can help facilitate discussion. And scheduling and calendar apps can make it easy to keep track of tasks and visits.
But there are other highly-practical uses for technology in postoperative care. With the right video-calling and information-sharing app, you and your loved one—as well as the care professionals in her life—can stay connected.
Let’s say your family member needs a nurse to show her how to carry out a set of instructions. Perhaps you want to see how your loved one is doing, and you don’t have time to go to her house. Maybe you want to provide her with the best possible support, and you need to see her care plan first.
In each of these cases, an easy-to-use app designed for the healthcare context can help. Consider harnessing this technology to stay in touch with your family member after surgery—and ask others within her circle of care if they’re willing to do the same.
Feature image courtesy of ImadCode