Preparing Your Home for After Surgery
There are many practical things you can do to prepare and adapt your home environment for your home-coming after your hip or knee surgery, making it a more suitable environment for you to heal and recover safely. In this article, we take a brief look at some of the things that can make life a little bit easier for you post-op.
It is essential to avoid rolling or twisting when getting onto or off of your bed. A higher bed is often easier in this case. It may also prove to be more helpful in facilitating movement on and off. One tip is to try to raise your bed using bricks. Aim for 10cm above your knee, or up to mid-thigh height as a general rule to start. We recommend you experiment before surgery to get used to it.
The bathroom environment always poses a more significant challenge in that water and tiles are involved – which generally makes for a more slippery environment! This, along with limited space, sharp edges and raised surfaces to climb over or step-up, means that it can be a more tricky environment to navigate.
Shower/Bath: Ensure that you have assistance when showering to avoid the risk of a fall. Non-slip rubber mats are also recommended in the shower and on the floor to prevent slipping. (And, if you don’t have a shower, then washing from a basin is also suitable and quite practical.) When showering, you can stand and shower for about 15 minutes, standing on both feet. Sitting is also an option you can explore.
- Hip Replacement: After a hip replacement, it is advised to have help washing and drying your feet as you may not bend more than 90 degrees at the hip. You can also only shower; no bathing for at least six weeks.
- Knee Replacement: If you have had knee surgery, you can use a bath board over the bath instead of a shower, and can bath from four weeks post-op.
Top Tip: If you would like to sit in the shower and your shower is big enough, an inexpensive option, is to make use of a plastic garden chair to sit on. You can also use two chairs which will raise the height for those who are taller.
Toilet: Some hip surgery patients or taller people may find having a higher toilet seat to be more helpful – but this differs per patient. Discuss this option with your Nursing Sister before surgery and confirm with your physiotherapist in the hospital after your operation.
As long as you have the strength, balance and someone to accompany you, you should safely be able to use the stairs at home. Climbing stairs might be a bit more of a challenge, to begin with, but you will get to practise the stairs in the hospital with your physiotherapist. We recommend taking it slowly in the beginning while you gain your strength and balance and following the instructions of the physiotherapist:
- Climbing stairs: When climbing stairs (going up) – use your good leg first, take your weight, and follow with your crutches, and then the leg you had surgery on.
- Descending stairs: When going down the stairs, put your crutches down first, followed by the leg you had surgery on, and finally your good leg.
Before you know it, you will be manoeuvring up and down like a pro!
Carpets, Cords and Raised Surfaces
Carefully evaluate your home for any potential tripping hazards such as loose rugs, carpets, excitable or sleeping pets, electrical cords, telephone wires and children’s toys. Where possible, remove these items for the duration of your recovery. In other instances, practice caution and ask your family members to assist you in helping to maintain a floor that is devoid of tripping hazards. You may need their assistance in being your eyes, and to help pick-up loose items off the floor, or to encourage animals away from you when you are moving around.
While we are sure, you would love to sit with your family and “lounge around”, while in recovery we encourage you not to sit too much. The recommendation is that you only sit for a maximum of 45 minutes to one hour at a time. This will help to prevent potential blood clots as well as stiffness, and prevent your feet from swelling. An upright chair with armrests is the most helpful to use initially.
- Hip Replacements: You may find it helpful to use an elevation cushion (a very firm 10cm high cushion), especially if you are taller or already struggle to get in and out of a chair. But when you do sit, you can bend your knees – just avoid sitting with your legs up as you may bend forward too deeply at the hip. Also consider having a side table available alongside you for drinks, spectacles, books, medication etc. This must not be in front of you, to avoid you bending deeply at the hip.
- Knee Replacements: You may find it helpful to use an elevation cushion (a very firm 10cm high cushion), especially if you are taller or already struggle to get in and out of a chair. Avoid sitting with your legs up/ elevated for too long; as you also need to practice your bending.