Each year, over 600,000 Americans will undergo knee replacement surgery. If someone you love is one of them, you might be apprehensive, anxious, and a bit nervous about the recovery period.
Knowledge is power, they say, and post-surgery is a time when empowerment can make all the difference. Whether you’re loved one is going home or to a facility with knee replacement rehab services, there’s a lot you can do to make recovery easier.
According to researchers at Ohio State University’s Department of Neuroscience, the physical presence of close friends and family makes a major difference in post-surgery recovery. So one of the most important things you can do for a loved one is to just be there.
Even if your loved one doesn’t need concrete help, bringing flowers, playing games or even just sitting and keeping them company will show them you care and lift their spirits. According to Dr. Davis F. Scott, this isn’t a luxury, it’s “vitally important.” So unless you live far away and have no other way to communicate, leave social media and texting out. Your loved one needs you by their side.
If your loved one is living in a home or assisted living community with excellent post-surgery support services, that’s great. But don’t leave all the heavy lifting to the staff, because you can offer a personal, loving touch that they can’t match.
Familiarize yourself with your loved one’s schedule and see where you can help out. If getting around is difficult, accompany them to the dining room or bring them their meals on a tray. If they need help getting in and out of bed, give them a hand instead of pressing the call button. And when it comes to daily living activities like getting dressed and personal hygiene, your loved one will appreciate being assisted by someone they feel close to.
Does your loved one need to get to medical appointments? Checkups? Do them a favor and take them. Not only will you make the travel and waiting time more enjoyable; getting to know your loved one’s medical team will give you an opportunity to ask questions and draw attention to symptoms or problems arising from the knee replacement surgery that someone else might not notice. It will also give you the opportunity to make sure that the doctor-patient relationship is a positive one.
Recovery from knee replacement takes patience and effort, and there are times when your loved one will be short on both. That’s where you come in. Nurses, doctors and physical therapists can encourage and cheer, but as a close friend or relative, you know even better how to rekindle the fire of motivation in your loved one. Is there an event coming up, like a family wedding, that they’ll want to be able to dance at? Is there someone in the family – a grandchild or a great-niece – who’s worried and will be thrilled to see them back on their feet? Reminding your loved one of things they once loved to do and of the people who are waiting to see them fully rejoin life is something only a close friend or relative can really do.
According to the Aging and Mental Health Journal, close to 25 percent of knee-replacement patients will experience depression after surgery. But depression isn’t always obvious. It’s normal for post-surgery patients to feel overtired and irritable; it takes someone who knows the patient well to know when the line has been crossed from post-op blues to something more serious.
Here are some warning signs that your loved one might be experiencing depression:
- Chronic fatigue
- Extreme or prolonged irritability
- Significant overeating
- Significant undereating
- Uncharacteristic oversleeping
- Frequent expressions of hopelessness or despair
- Uncharacteristic difficulty in making decisions
- Loss of interest in activities they once enjoined
It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: If your loved one starts talking about a desire to harm either themselves or others, sound the alarm – immediately.
There is so much you can do to smooth your loved one’s road to recovery. It will take a lot of time, effort and patience on your part – but it will be so, so worth it.
Have you had experience assisting a loved one after knee replacement surgery? Please share in the comments below!