Complications following surgery are unfortunate consequences for some patients. Over 100,000 patients get a post-surgery infection in the US each year. Beyond infections, other post-surgery complications can include blood clots, allergic reactions, trouble with urination, dangerously low blood pressure, and more. However, those who receive after surgery care report better outcomes, higher patient satisfaction, and improved communication between medical staff and the patient. This guide provides information on after surgery care for patients and their families. It aims to help them make informed decisions based on their situation.
1. What is After Surgery Care?
After surgery care involves a caregiver or a nurse providing a range of support, including medical or daily living needs. After surgery, patients often have strict instructions to follow to ensure appropriate recovery; however, patients can also find those instructions confusing or be physically limited in what they can do. Patients often need post-hospitalization care with proper support. This care may include a long list of tasks from the post-operative procedures, such as monitoring vital signs, administering medication, managing pain, providing wound care, following a specific diet, easing into an exercise routine, and assisting with daily activities such as eating, drinking, and using the bathroom or shower. Care professionals can curtail services to the needs of the patient and family. Those providing temporary home care after surgery get involved before the patient transitions out of the hospital so that they understand and can explain the patient’s needs.
2. When After Surgery Care is needed?
When there are potential limits to what someone can do after surgery, or there is a chance of misinterpreting or not following through with specific instructions, professional after surgery care could be necessary. These are some of the typical times when patients may need after surgery care.
2.1 What are the common surgeries that require after surgery home care?
- Hip replacement:Patients who receive hip replacement surgery have limited mobility and strict instructions for movement. They cannot walk independently, and they have to limit the amount of weight they can bear, as well as a physical therapy routine completed multiple times per day. After surgery, caregivers can ensure patients complete their physical therapy, prevent falls by assisting with walking, and perform daily living tasks that could cause harm, such as doing the laundry.
- Knee surgery:After knee surgery, patients have restrictions on movement and need to avoid bumps and falls. When patients recover at home, it often requires intervention to make sure floors are free of debris, plenty of room between furniture, and items that are easy to reach. Caregivers and nurses know how to create a safe space for patients to move about with assistance. If someone lives in a home with more than one level without an elevator, after surgery caregivers and nurses are especially important for making trips up and down stairs.
- Cataracts:A common problem after cataract surgery is impaired vision that can last days or weeks. Without the ability to see clearly, patients need someone to run errands, drive them to appointments, and read labels. After surgery caregivers and nurses can safely transport patients, pick up supplies, and read medication bottles to administer the correct dose.
- Breast reduction surgery:Pain after a breast reduction surgery is a frequent issue that can lead to needing after surgery care at home. Due to the pain, patients cannot move their upper body with a wide range of motion. They need medical assistance to manage pain medications and monitor worsening pain and swelling. Surgical patients may also need help sitting up, changing bandages and dressings, or keeping clean from draining.
- Pacemaker insertion surgery:Patients recovering from pacemaker insertion surgery have limits on their range of motion and cardiovascular activity. They need assistance with activities of daily living, such as cooking, bathing, housekeeping, and walking. Patients may also need support adjusting to life with a pacemaker, which could involve emotional support from a caregiver.
- Hernia repair surgery:While the recovery time for a hernia repair surgery is only a week or two, patients do have to be careful not to reinjure themselves during this period. This especially means that patients can need assistance taking care of pets, grocery shopping, and lifting items.
- Spinal fusion surgery:Spinal fusion surgery requires limiting even basic movements of the spine for an extended period, including bending over, extending the back, or even sitting for a long time. Patients with many movement restrictions need help reaching for items, standing up, or doing anything that could stress the spine.
- Thyroid removal surgery:Patients often struggle after thyroid removal surgery with changes in speech. Not only do patients need speech therapy as part of their after surgery care, but they also need social and emotional support. Someone trained to communicate with those with speech problems and engage in social activities at home that do not strain the body after surgery.
3. What are the benefits of After Surgery Care?
Understanding the benefits can help patients and families determine if after surgery care is the right decision. After surgery care can help patients avoid mishaps and make a real difference in recovery.
Risks after surgery care help avoid:
- Rehospitalization:One of the most common reasons for rehospitalization after surgery is dehydration. After surgery care can involve monitoring and ensuring proper hydration after surgery.
- Fall prevention:Falling after surgery can slow down recovery and even introduce new injuries, with the risk of falling increasing with certain procedures, comorbidities, and age. Whether it includes walking assistance or help performing daily tasks after surgery care can provide an environment to help reduce falls.
- Complication:Complications after surgery can mean anything from a haemorrhage to a slipped staple or a range of other issues. After-surgery care provides medical assistance through a home health aide or a caregiver to monitor for early changes that could indicate a complication.
- Infection:Improper wound care can lead to a post-operative infection. It can be difficult for those without training to dress and clean major surgical incension sites properly. After surgery care can provide trained professionals to keep wounds clean.
- Social exclusion:When patients have limited mobility due to surgery recovery, it can limit social participation. A lack of social inclusion can contribute to poorer post-surgical outcomes. The time after surgery care professionals spend with patients can include general mood checks and social interaction.
- Reactions to anaesthesia:Allergic reactions and other effects of anaesthesia can occur after the surgical procedure. After surgery care can monitor for reactions, such as seizures, instead of putting the patient at risk alone.
Temporary home care after surgery helps with the following:
- Enhanced recovery:Enhanced recovery after surgery is a multidimensional process involving the incorporation of multiple types of team members, including after surgery care professionals. The goal is to enhance positive outcomes from surgery involving lifestyle changes.
- Improved life quality:By providing an environment conducive to recovery, after surgery care can improve a patient’s quality of life. After surgery care professionals achieve this through both physical and emotional assistance.
- Companionship:Patients can rely on the social and emotional support of after surgery care to produce a sense of companionship. This could be as simple as having someone to have a conversation with or engaging in light activities, such as reading or watching television together.
- Completing medical instructions:Post-operative instructions can include medical jargon or complicated instructions. Exhaustion during recovery can also limit patients’ compliance with medical instructions. After surgery caregivers can ensure that each step occurs correctly.
- Reducing family stress:When families are left to take care of a loved one post-surgery, it can cause stress due to the time constraints of work and other family commitments. Also, family members may not feel qualified to help. By using a professional to provide care, families can skip the added stress and focus on the patient’s emotional support.
- Increased safety:After surgery care professionals can provide feedback on safety protocols following a specific surgery and the limited mobility that can occur from it. By monitoring recovering patients and assisting with activities that require movement, they can reduce the risk of a post-operative accident.
4. What are After Surgery Care services?
After surgery care can include medical and non-medical services, depending on the patient’s needs.
4.1 After Surgery Home Care services (for non-medical needs)
Non-medical home care services can include:
- Personal care:This can include help with bathing, toileting, and dressing.
- Meal preparation:Services can include cooking, baking, and planning meals.
- Assistance with mobility:Carers help patients walk around with assistance safely.
- Transport to/from doctor appointments:Home care professionals take patients to appointments to avoid self-driving while in recovery.
- Fall prevention:Fall prevention services can include mapping fall risks in the home, the use of prevention equipment, mobility assistance, and moving furniture.
- Medication management:Carers follow the medication schedule instructed by the surgical team to assist with pain relief and the reduction of complications.
- Housekeeping:While patients have limited mobility after surgery care can include disinfecting counters, cleaning floors, picking up items, laundry, doing the dishes, and other light housekeeping tasks.
- Therapies coordination:After surgery care non-medical professionals can help coordinate the schedule of physical therapists, speech therapists, and other recovery teams, whether these services occur in or out of the home.
4.2 After Surgery Nursing Care services (for medical needs)
Medical home health care can include:
- Physical therapy:Some after surgery care provides trained and licensed physical therapists. Nurses can also ensure that patients do their physical therapy routine safely outside of sessions, as a physical therapist instructs them.
- Wound management:Nurses can clean, change, and dress wounds per post-operative instructions. Proper care helps keep the incision site free of infection.
- Pain management:Nurses can remind patients to take any pain medications prescribed. They can also assist with mobility and medical devices that may reduce pain.
- Administering medicines:After surgery care medical professionals can maintain a schedule for administering medications to patients. They can also assist with the application of topical medications or shots.
- IV management:Some patients may require an IV to treat dehydration or to administer medications. Nurses who provide after surgery care are qualified and licensed to start and maintain IV lines safely.
- Vital sign monitoring:To ensure a healthy recovery and monitor for complications, nurses can check blood pressure and heart rate, ensure the proper function of the lungs, and check other vital signs. They may report these findings to patients’ primary medical teams.
- Medical device maintenance:For patients who have temporary medical devices after surgery, such as a catheter, nurses can ensure proper function and clean the device. For those with devices implanted, such as a pacemaker, nurses can perform checks approved by doctors to make sure it works properly.
5. Who provides After Surgery Care?
These are some of the types of companies that provide after surgery care:
- Home health agencies:Home health agencies provide nursing care to patients while they recover. They offer vetted, licensed, and insured nursing staff that can assist with medical needs, such as dressing wounds and monitoring recovery.
- Home care agencies:Home care agencies provide caregivers to engage in non-medical tasks. This includes personal care, cooking, and laundry, among other tasks.
- Post-operative hospital care:After care surgery can occur within a hospital. In this case, the on-duty medical staff, surgeon, and other medical staff provide medical-only care until it is deemed safe to discharge the patient.
- Recovery centers:Rather than staying at home, patients who want after surgery care can stay in a recovery center. These are designed like hotel rooms and offer medical and non-medical staff for patients.
Alone after surgery: what to do?
Patients can call a home care agency to get help with daily needs. It is a good idea to make all the arrangements before the surgery to prepare plans before a patient becomes incapacitated.
Does Medicare cover after surgery care?
Medicare covers medically-related home health services for a limited period. This does not include personal home care services like cleaning and cooking. The use of Medicare for after surgery care must be approved by a doctor.
7. Final Thoughts
Hiring a home health or home care agency for after surgery care can help patients recover at home in a safe and comfortable environment. This can be especially helpful in relieving the care burden on family members. Here are a few key things patients and families should consider when making this decision:
- Risks of reinjury or complications;
- The type of after surgery care needed;
- Qualification of those who provide care; and,
- Following a patient recovery plan.
Patients and families can also consult with their doctors and surgeons to determine the best options and services as part of their comprehensive post-operative care plan.