The Complete Guide to After-Surgery Home Care for Seniors & Caregivers


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In-home care can support older adults with the unique challenges they face after surgery, such as hip replacement surgery. It’s common for seniors to have more than one chronic condition, which, along with age, may increase their odds of post-surgery complications and even hospital readmissions.[01]

It’s important that family caregivers understand that seniors may struggle more than their younger counterparts after surgery. Common complications after surgery for seniors might include the following:

  • Falling
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Anemia (low iron levels)
  • Maintaining homeostasis (optimal body function) [01]

Surgery can also affect the major organs differently in older adults. Blood loss or changes in fluid during surgery may affect heart function or affect kidney function during and after surgery in this population. Older adults with existing lung issues may be more vulnerable to catching pneumonia as they recover from surgery, which presents its own dangers.[02]

Beyond the surgery itself, the anesthesia (sedation) used during surgery can also lead to more complications for older adults. These include the following:

  • Postoperative delirium, a type of temporary confusion and disorientation that may cause issues with memory and attention
  • Postoperative cognitive dysfunction, a serious condition that can result in long-term memory loss in older adults, although it’s not well-understood and more studies are needed [03]

In-home care after surgery: Supporting recovery

When your loved one arrives home from the hospital, they may need support and care that they cannot provide for themselves. Their unique care needs may be met through any combination of family caregiving, home care, and home health care.


Family caregiving

An adult child or other family member may take on the role of caregiver and support an older adult at home after surgery by doing the following:

  • Communicating with the surgeon
  • Providing medication reminders
  • Transporting to follow-up medical appointments
  • Shopping, meal planning, and preparing food
  • Helping with light housekeeping and laundry
  • Assisting with bathing (as per the surgeon’s instructions) and toileting
  • Helping with mobility challenges
  • Providing companionship
  • Caring for the loved one’s pet

If the family member has a job, they should consider taking time off by utilizing their employer’s benefits for caregivers. Federal benefits ensure that family caregivers can take time off in the event they need to care for a loved one with a medical condition.


Home care

Home care typically encompasses nonmedical care provided by a professional in a client’s home. They provide similar care to what a family caregiver can provide. Hiring a home care aide for your loved one can be a good idea if you live far away or if you cannot care for your loved one at home by yourself.

A home care aide can also provide respite care. This can be ideal for family caregivers who need to work, must attend to children, or simply need a break to prevent caregiver burnout.


Home health care

If your loved one has specific medical care needs, home health care may be the better fit for their situation. Home health care typically involves medical care and skilled nursing provided by a professional in your loved one’s home.

A home health aide may be able to help with the following:

  • Administering medication
  • Caring for wounds or incisions
  • Monitoring incision sites for infection
  • Monitoring chronic conditions
  • Monitoring for concerning mental changes (postoperative delirium and postoperative cognitive dysfunction)
  • Monitoring for complications such as hypothermia or changes in heart function and breathing
  • Communicating with the surgeon or pharmacist

In some circumstances, Medicaid may pay for home health care.


Tips for after-surgery care at home

Whether you’re caring for your loved one yourself or hiring a professional caregiver, there are tips to follow when helping a senior recover from surgery. However, your loved one’s specific needs may vary depending on what type of surgery they have. For example, a joint replacement surgery may require more care over a longer period of time than a cataract surgery.

It’s important to make your older adult’s environment and activities fit their needs following surgery. Consider the following ways to help your loved one at home after surgery.


Gather adaptive devices

Your loved one’s doctor may recommend specific adaptive items to help with recovery. These may include a walker, crutches, a shower chair, an elevated toilet seat, and more.


Assemble comfort items

Your loved one may feel disoriented or different than usual in the beginning. Have their glasses or hearing aids ready when they arrive home to help them with readjustment. Place their favorite cup or mug near their recovery area to help with hydration. Make them a comfy space that includes their preferred blanket or other special items.


Be mindful of lighting

To prevent falls, make sure there’s adequate lighting in spaces where your parent will be walking or moving. It may help with readjustment for them to be near a window so they can see natural light and outdoor views. Nightlights can be a good way to light a path to the bathroom at nighttime.


Purchase medical supplies

Typically, your loved one’s doctor will supply a list of items to have on hand following the surgery. These may include an oxygen tank, bandages, gauze, antibiotic ointment, prescription and over-the-counter medicines, ice packs, or heating pads. It’s best to gather these supplies in advance to prevent delays in care.


Set up safe sleeping arrangements

Your loved one’s doctor may provide specific directions for how your loved one can safely sleep. If a limb needs to be elevated, have something on hand to raise it in the bed. If they’ll need to use the restroom during the nighttime, consider having them stay in a bedroom near the bathroom or with an en suite bathroom for easy access and to prevent falls. A portable bedside commode may be another option to reduce bathroom visits at night.


Keep walking surfaces clear

Keep floors free from clutter, especially electrical cords and other trip hazards. Train pets to stay away from your parent to prevent falls when they’re moving around the home. If there are slippery surfaces in their home environment, it may be a good idea for your parent to wear socks with a grippy texture or rubber-soled slippers and shoes.


Encourage rest

It’s common for someone to want to return to their normal life as soon as possible after surgery, but overexertion can cause issues with their recovery. As a caregiver, you can reassure them that it’s OK for them to take the time they need to heal.


Lift items for the recovering person

Surgical incisions can be delicate after a patient returns home from the hospital. Often, doctors will advise patients to temporarily refrain from lifting objects heavier than 10 pounds. A caregiver can help an older adult by lifting household items such as a vacuum cleaner, a large garbage bag, or a laundry basket with towels.[04]


Assist with doctor-ordered exercises

To prevent blood clots, your loved one’s care team may provide instructions for exercises that promote blood flow without risking damage to the surgical incision.[05] As a caregiver, you can potentially assist with these exercises.


Make plans for mental stimulation

If your loved one feels up to it, you can help them stay mentally active with activities like watching movies, reading books, or working on a puzzle together. You may consider placing an Amazon Alexa-enabled device nearby, so they can listen to music, news, and audiobooks and set reminders.

When to hire a professional in-home caregiver

It’s always best to consult your loved one’s surgeon before making decisions about their care. Ask if they think home care or home health care would aid in your loved one’s recovery from surgery.

If your surgeon doesn’t provide instructions on choosing in-home care, consider hiring a professional home caregiver in the following situations:

  • Your loved one has expressed that they’d prefer a professional caregiver instead of a family caregiver.
  • You can’t lift or move your loved one without potentially injuring your loved one or yourself.
  • Time constraints or other life responsibilities limit your ability to be present when your loved one needs care.
  • Your loved one needs 24/7 care.
  • The medical needs of your loved one require the expertise of a professional.
  • Your loved one needs transportation in a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

How much does after-surgery home care cost?

Post-surgery home care, which is typically provided by a home care aide or home health aide, costs $26 and $27 per hour respectively depending on care type, based on national median hourly cost data from the Genworth 2021 Cost of Care Survey.[06]

Keep in mind that the rates for care vary greatly by location. In 2021, a home health aide’s median hourly rate in Washington State was $34.50, while that same care type had a median hourly rate of only $19.50 in Louisiana.[06]

Hours needed heavily influence the overall cost. Depending on your loved one’s needs, they may only require in-home care for a few hours a week, or they may need round-the-clock care.

How can I find in-home care?

It can be emotionally and mentally daunting to prepare for a loved one’s surgery and care for them post-surgery, but you don’t have to go on this journey alone. The Senior Living Advisors at A Place for Mom can help you find home care that meets your loved one’s unique needs — all at no cost to you and your family.

This article originally appeared on APlaceForMom and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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