For many people, getting ready for surgery is so all-consuming that they forget to consider what happens AFTER surgery. One of the keys to a ensuring a successful recovery is setting your home up in advance of surgery to be a safe and healthy space for you to live.
Here are a few tips for preparing your living space.
- Know your limitations: A week or more before your surgery, ask your doctor what you will and won’t be able to do upon your return home. Ask if you’ll be able to walk on your own or will require crutches or a walker. Ask if you’ll be able to raise your arms or lift things. Knowing what you can and can’t do will allow you to adjust your living space to accommodate your limitations.
- Create safe pathways: Regardless of whether you need a walker or crutches post-surgery, you want to make sure the pathways between your living areas, bedroom, kitchen and bathrooms are clear and well lit. If there are area rugs, remove them for the duration of your recovery to avoid slipping.
- Dress for comfort and safety: Before you head to the hospital for surgery, make sure you have comfortable, easy-to-wear clothing waiting for you when you get home. Loose fitting clothes without zippers and buttons are ideal. Make sure whatever you’re wearing is not too long to avoid tripping. Also, wear flat shoes or slipper with non-skid soles.
- Stock your pantry and prep your kitchen: Speak to your doctor about any dietary restrictions post-surgery. Make sure you’re well-stocked with healthy and approved food options. If you will have limits on reaching, lifting or bending, place regularly used items (i.e. plates, glasses, pots and pans, coffee maker, etc.) on the counter where you can easily access them.
- Aim for first-floor living: If you know stairs will be off-limits and your bedroom is on the second floor, set up alternate sleeping arrangements on the entry level. If you can, have friends or family move your bed downstairs or rent a hospital bed. If your bathroom is also on the second floor, set up a portable commode in accessible space near your bed.
- Set up your bathroom for safety: Depending upon your surgery, you may need to make a few adjustments in your bathroom. Consider installing an elevated toilet seat and grab bars next to the toilet and in the tub or shower. Place non-slip mats in the tub and on the floor to prevent slips. If you doctor recommends it, a bath or shower chair with non-skid tips may be required. Make sure soaps and shampoos are placed within easy reach.
- Keep essentials within reach: Whether you’re in bed or resting on the couch, make sure you have access to the things you use most. Your glasses, telephone, remotes, even medication should be within reach. A small basket with a handle is ideal for keeping things organized and portable.
- Love your fur-friends from afar: While pets are considered man (and woman’s) best friend, if they get underfoot during your recovery, they’re not doing you any favors. If possible, try to re-house them with a friend or nearby kennel.
Setting up your home in advance will make life during recovery easier and safer. If you need help making any of the suggested adjustments, ask your doctor or physical therapist about available resources and services.
Graham Moore, MD, is a surgeon at SVMC General Surgery.