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Our guide to surgery recovery for seniors

Learn how to best help your senior loved one prepare for and recover from surgery

It’s estimated that 53% of surgeries are performed on adults 65 and older, and that half the population over the age of 65 will need surgery at some point in their life. [1]

Surgery is difficult for everyone, but seniors tend to have a slower recovery time and an increased risk of complications due to weakening bones and decreased mobility. 

Before a procedure, it’s important that your loved one and their caregivers understand as much as possible about surgery recovery for seniors. 

Continue reading to learn how you can best help seniors before, during, and after their surgery so that they have the smoothest experience possible.

Preparations before surgery

The time leading up to surgery is just as important as the recovery after the surgery. By adequately preparing and knowing what to expect, your loved one will be set up for a more smooth recovery process and calm any nerves before the day of their surgery. 

  • Prehab. We’ve all heard of rehab after a surgery to help patients recover, but “prehab” helps patients physically prepare before surgery to make the recovery process more smooth. Prehab activities do not have to be anything strenuous. Your senior’s prehab routine can simply include light exercise, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep. Their doctor may also offer suggestions on how to best prepare depending on the type of surgery your loved one is undergoing and any pre-existing conditions they have that could interfere with prehab activities. 
  • Prepare their home and recovery space. When your loved one returns from the hospital after surgery, their recovery space should already be prepared for them. In the days leading up to surgery, it’s a good idea to clean up around the house so your loved one won’t feel overwhelmed or feel like they need to clean. Also, take a look around at furniture that may be an obstacle during recovery. Some home modifications may be necessary, such as a shower chair, bathroom grab bar, or wheelchair ramp. Clear hallways and move any rugs that may cause a fall and set back their recovery progress. Lastly, make sure that your loved one will have access to anything that will bring them comfort and place remote controls, phones, and books in an easy-to-reach location.  
  • Talk with their surgeon to address any concerns. Talk with your loved one and see if they have any questions or concerns about their surgery. Some common topics to ask your doctor before surgery include how to best prepare, any complications to expect, discharge dates, and any stories or experiences that your doctor may want to share. Help come up with a list of questions to ask your loved one’s doctor. There may be some questions or concerns your loved one has, but they feel embarrassed to bring the topic up; offer to ask for them. It’s important that your loved one feels as calm and prepared as possible come surgery day. 

Read more:

Home modifications for seniors, room by room 

The day of surgery 

On the day that your loved one goes into surgery, they will likely be feeling anxious or stressed. It’s important to do all you can to help calm their nerves and know exactly what they can and cannot do the hours leading up to surgery.

  • Eating and drinking. When you and your loved one have a conversation with their doctor, be sure to ask about what drinks and foods your loved one can have the day of their surgery. Usually, the surgeon may recommend that they come in with an empty stomach. If that’s the case, be sure your loved one understands this and help them have a nice dinner the night before. 
  • Medications. Be sure that you have gotten all the medications your loved one will need after their surgery. It’s also important to check with their doctor to see what medications they can and cannot take before their surgery. For example, many surgeons recommend against taking anticoagulants (blood thinners) and Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOs). In some cases, your loved one’s surgeon will also prescribe an antibiotic or anti-nausea pill for them to take before surgery.  

Helping with surgery recovery 

Proper surgery recovery for seniors can set them up for success to make a full recovery. 

  • Ensure they’re as comfortable as possible. Many seniors may feel discouraged throughout their surgery recovery which can be uncomfortable and disheartening. Do all you can to make them as comfortable as possible such as making sure they have blankets, pillows, and a comfortable place to sit or lie down. In addition to physical comfort, make sure to offer them emotional comfort such as magazines, movies, and music to boost their mood. 
  • Physical therapy. When your loved one is discharged from the hospital, their doctor or surgeon will likely provide them with a list of local physical therapists that they recommend for them during their recovery process. Physical therapists can provide personalized recovery plans that best fit with your loved one’s lifestyle and the surgery they are recovering from. Also, ask their physical therapist or doctor if there are any at-home exercises you can help with and when it is appropriate to do so.
  • Follow-up appointments. It’s crucial that your loved one attends all follow-up appointments, so their doctor can ensure that their recovery progress is on track. Go with your loved one to these appointments, so that you are also aware of what steps they need to take in order to have a full recovery. 
  • Monitoring medications. After surgery, your loved one will likely have new medication they have to take in addition to any medications they had been taking before. Help them portion out and remember to take their medications. Come up with a strategy that best fits into the lifestyle of your loved one, whether that’s setting an alarm when they need to take their medication or taking it at mealtime to build a routine. 
  • Proper foods and water intake. Proper nutrition and hydration after surgery is another critical element of surgery recovery. Ensure that your loved one always has a water bottle close by that they can easily access and encourage them to drink plenty of water. Also, make easy to prepare and healthy foods that will encourage your loved one to eat nutritiously. 
  • Staying positive. Surgery recovery can be a hard time for seniors. They may be in pain and feel lonely. Do what you can to help your loved one stay positive. Spend time with them, watch their favorite shows with them, cook their favorite meals. Even little things can make a large and positive impact on their recovery. 

Read more: 

The ultimate guide to nutrition for older adults 

The Flourish in Place difference 

At Flourish in Place, we provide home care options for all needs and budgets and specialize in helping families in Central Florida find the appropriate level of care for their loved ones. 

We offer a wide variety of specialized services that can help your loved one in their surgery recovery, including cooking and serving nutritious meals, companionship and support, light housekeeping, medication reminders, and dementia care. 

Our caregivers have multiple years of professional experience and many hours of specialized education and training from an experienced registered nurse. Our caregivers are also required to complete regular ongoing training to ensure they’re providing the highest quality care to our clients.

To learn more, please request your Free Consultation today.

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1: U.S. National Library of Medicine | Unique Aspects of the Elderly Surgical Population 

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