Evaluate Your Home
One of the most important goals of surgery is for you to return home and function as independently as possible. By evaluating your home for safety and ease in functioning before your surgery, you can avoid what may later seem like large obstacles to your recovery.
Multi-Level Vs. One Level Homes
If you live in a multi-level home, consider where you will stay after coming home, keeping in mind that you should be able to climb stairs after discharge. For many patients in a 2 level home, they get up in the morning, bathe and dress upstairs, then come down to the first level and remain there the rest of the day.
If there is no access to a bathroom on the 1st level, it may be necessary to obtain a portable toilet. While there is no set limitation to the number of stairs you can climb, certainly in the first several weeks after discharge, stair climbing may tire the patient. As stability, confidence, and strength continue to improve, stair climbing becomes more frequent.
A one level home presents minimal problems since all rooms are available to the patient.
Stairs – Inside/Outside
As mentioned, all patients are taught stair climbing while in the hospital. Evaluate any steps at your home prior to your surgery. Make sure that the handrails are sturdy. If you desire, install rails on both sides of the steps for maximum convenience going up and down. If outside steps do not have a handrail, perhaps now is the time to install one if possible. Evaluate the entrances to your home. Select the one that has the easiest access for you while using crutches or a walker. You’ll find if you work on these ideas now, your recovery time won’t be hampered by trying to make these decisions.
Safety is the keyword when you look at your bathroom. Make sure you can maneuver. Remember, you will be using a walker or crutches for a few weeks. Some ideas to consider are:
- shower/tub rail
- rail on wall by toilet (many times a sink to the side of the toilet can be used for support)
- shower/tub bench
- non-slip mat inside tub/shower
Again, planning ahead can mean the difference between a recovery period that runs smoothly or one that you feel is constantly frustrating. Using safety and efficiency as the primary guides, take a look at your kitchen. Think about meals and the equipment used for them. Put pots, pans, canned goods and cleaning supplies at waist to eye level for ease of access. When using crutches or a walker you’re not going to want to be bending too low nor reaching too high for safety’s sake.
Use your upper cabinets or counter space to store your most frequently used equipment.
If you plan on preparing meals and freezing them before having your surgery, try to place them in containers that will go from the freezer to the oven, stove, or microwave to make life easier. (Don’t make any containers too heavy if you are the one who will need to get them out.)
Remember the refrigerator too. The same rules apply – try to keep the items you’ll use most frequently on the upper shelves to maximize energy conservation and maintain any position restrictions you may have.
In general, most households need just a few adjustments made in order for you to function more effectively after surgery. As with all the suggestions given here, remember to adapt what may be suited to your individual needs.
Floors – Be sure that your pathways are cleared. If you have small items sitting on floors or stairs, you may want to put these away for now. If you have small children at home, educate them now to put away toys, books, etc. so that everything is up from the floor.
Household Pets – If you have indoor pets such as cats or dogs, please be sure that someone will be available to help care for them. You will need assistance with their care while using a walker or crutches. In addition, consider the safety factor of functioning in your home with an indoor pet. Remember, you will always want a clear pathway and every effort made to avoid injury.
Carpets – Scatter rugs should be placed away for later use. They can cause you to lose your footing and perhaps fall. Even those with rubberized backs can be an obstacle to crutches or walkers so our advice is to get them off the floors while recuperating.
Furniture – In general, patients are most comfortable sitting on higher furniture with arms. Sofas or chairs that are too low can cause problems bending too much to get into, and straining too much to get out of. Pick a comfortable, moderate height chair or sofa for sitting so that your knees are on a level with or slightly lower than your hips when you are seated. Recliners, if the correct height for comfort and any position restrictions, are a popular type of chair patients use at home.
Get Comfortable – Make sure that the things you need – like the telephone, TV remote control, newspaper, etc. – are within your reach. You may want to place a small table near the chair or sofa where you will be sitting after surgery in order to keep these things handy.