Helping Seniors Recover After Surgery
When you or a loved one is getting ready for a surgical operation, it’s easy to lose sight of what you’ll need to do to recover. But planning for your recovery – and keeping an eye on ways you can avoid potential complications – can help you get back to everyday life faster and easier.
As a committed provider of post-surgical rehabilitation services, Auburn Rehabilitation & Health Care Center stands ready to assist your family throughout the entire process. Even if you don’t seek support through our community, we hope this guide is helpful as you craft a recovery plan that works for you.
Potential Post-Surgical Complications
There’s no universal set of complications that can occur after a surgery, but we’ll quickly discuss some of the most common ones. For example, hip replacements – especially those required as the result of a broken hip – carry many risks, including nerve damage and joint weakening leading to dislocation. Hip injuries are one of the most challenging to address, as the hip joint is one of the most used, most complex joints in the body.
No matter what surgery you or your loved one needs, you must remain keenly aware of the risk of blood clots and infection. Seniors are naturally more prone to clotting, which can lead to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke following an operation (depending on the patient’s current medications and overall health, a doctor may prescribe blood thinners to combat this). An older adult’s immune system is also generally less robust than a younger individual, so changing bandages frequently with clean hands is paramount.
How Can Outcomes Be Improved?
Before considering any of our tips, remember this: Your doctor’s advice takes priority. He or she knows your physiology and medical history, allowing for a better picture of what you really need. Before applying any of our recovery tips, be sure to clear them with your or your loved one’s health care provider.
With all of that being said, here are a few things you can do at home to make it easier for you or a loved one to get better:
Don’t do too much.
Once you’re cleared to go home after your surgery, it’s imperative that you take it easy. Your doctor should give you a clear picture of what activities you can do, how often you can do them and what things to avoid altogether. It might be tempting to return to your usual level of activity right away, but this can do a lot of harm.
Avoid staying in bed.
Like we said, you don’t want to overdo it – but going the opposite direction can be dangerous, too. Once your doctor has cleared you to get up and move around, don’t stay stuck in bed or glued to the couch. Rest is important, no doubt, but too much lying down can cause a lot of problems – like blood clots, pressure sores, muscular weakness and embolism. Moving around a little also aids in digestion and helps you feel less fatigued overall.
Stick to the schedule.
Doctors aren’t perfect, but they know a heck of a lot more about your personal recovery than anyone else. If they’ve given you a schedule of medicines to complete, stick to the plan. While many will try to wean themselves off of pain medication before their script runs out, doing so can make it harder for you to move around and can delay your recovery.
Avoid returning to work too soon.
It can be tempting to try to get back to your regular schedule as soon as you feel like you can tough it out. Avoid this if at all possible! Why? You run the risk of overexertion and reinjury. And you may not be giving your body sufficient time to rest. It’s all about striking the right balance between recovery-boosting exercise (like you’ll find at physical therapy) and necessary rest. When in doubt, always ask your doctor.
Never skip rehabilitation.
If your doctor recommended a course of rehabilitative therapy for you, you have to do it. It can be easy to assume that you can just wait for things to feel better, but failing to keep up with physical therapy can lead to reduced strength, range of motion and overall functionality in the affected area – damage that can last a lifetime.
Stay Focused on Nutrition
We all know the old truism – you are what you eat. It might sound a little clichéd, but in the case of post-surgical care, it’s absolutely true. Think about it. Your body is attempting to rebuild vital structures, and it needs certain building blocks. After all, you wouldn’t try to build a house without wood, drywall or nails – rebuilding your body works the same way.
And again, we can’t stress enough the importance of heeding your doctor’s advice. You may have specific dietary restrictions that mean you can’t eat some of the things we’re about to talk about. Be sure to ask your doctor what kind of nutrition will help your unique recovery.
So what do you eat to get better, faster? These nutrient-packed delicacies are a great place to start.
All sorts of delicious fruit – like grapes, pomegranates, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries – are packed full of antioxidants that help your body repair itself. They’re also loaded with vitamin C, which can help rebuild collagen and soft tissue faster.
Your body needs vitamins and minerals – so roughage like cabbage, spinach and Brussels sprouts are a great place to start. Vegetables with bright colors like carrots, bell peppers and sweet potatoes are also packed with bioavailable vitamins. The fiber will also aid your digestion.
Things like olive oil and avocados are full of good fats that aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals. You’ll make the most of the other foods you eat and boost your immune system, too.
A tasty cut of meat is a dinnertime staple – and it can be healthful, too. The amino acids in protein are essential to muscular recovery. If you’re not a meat eater, you can enjoy beans, lentils, nuts and tofu as other good sources of dietary protein.
Antibiotics are obviously very commonly prescribed after a surgery, but they can wreak havoc on your stomach’s natural biome (that is, the healthy bacteria that keep your digestion regular). Combat this by eating foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi. These foods are high in good bacteria and can help restore your stomach to its pre-surgery state.
There’s one more magic ingredient to a good recovery – water! It seems obvious, but after a surgery, your body needs hydration more than ever. The advice we all grew up with to drink 8 glasses a day is technically a little outdated, but you won’t go wrong with drinking more water than you normally would.
The Importance of Professional Help
Recovering at home is possible, but it’s certainly not ideal. Your home likely isn’t designed to be a comfortable, safe environment for a senior who has just left the hospital – and it doesn’t come complete with a full staff of highly trained nurses, caregivers or in-house cooks. The best way to recover is to choose a rehabilitation center like Auburn Rehabilitation & Health Care Center.
At Auburn Rehabilitation & Health Care Center, we have the knowledge and experience to address each senior’s unique needs. With advanced physical, occupational and speech therapies, we have a treatment plan for all of the most common health concerns. And thanks to our 24-hour nursing support, you and your family will have real peace of mind that quality care is always available.
Want to know more? We’re always ready to answer your questions. Contact us today.