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The weeks following hip replacement surgery can exact a high emotional toll — not only on the person who just had surgery, but also on their friends and family members. Your once-active loved one will face new restrictions on even the simplest day-to-day activities. Of course, in the long run, many people experience reduced pain and a better quality of life from such a surgery, but while the new hip is healing, your loved one may require assistance with activities and motivation to keep them on track with their recovery. Luckily, there are many ways you can help.
Home Planning Before Surgery
Before the hip replacement, several home modifications recommended by Shawn Brubaker, D.O., Medical Director for the Center for Joint and Spine Health at Mercy Medical Center Redding, can make a person's recovery easier and safer. Consider calling in a professional for the heavier installations, but you may be able to do some of these on your own:
- Fasten safety bars to the shower wall.
- Secure a stable shower chair for bathing.
- Install a raised toilet seat.
- Secure handrails in stairways.
- Provide stable armchairs with firm cushions that allow knees to remain lower than hips.
- Position furniture to allow for open walkways, and remove any electrical cords or throw rugs that might be in the way.
There are also some specific ways you can help support your loved one during the recovery phase:
- Wound care: You may need to help with bathing to keep the surgical wound site dry until it has thoroughly healed and any staples are removed.
- Swelling: There will likely be swelling after the surgery; help reduce it by elevating your loved one's leg slightly and applying ice.
- Weight bearing: Someone recovering from hip surgery should use a walker or other assistive device until their balance, flexibility, and strength improve. The doctor will give specific instructions regarding how much weight can be put on the leg and the right device to use.
- Avoiding falls: Falling during the first weeks after surgery can damage a new hip. Various rooms, stairs, and hallways may pose hazards until the hip is strong and mobile. Help your relative or friend move around after surgery to decrease fall risks.
- Activity: Exercising, mainly walking, will have a big positive influence on the patient's recovery. A doctor or physical therapist will prescribe a home exercise program that includes walking and specific daily exercises to help restore the hip's movement, mobility, and strength.
- Diet: Diet is important to build muscle strength and help the wound heal. Encourage the patient to eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids. Bringing groceries and helping to prepare meals are good ways to ensure healthy eating.
For a good recovery and to prevent dislocation of the new hip, special precautions should be taken for at least the first six weeks after hip replacement surgery, according to the National Institutes of Health. Depending on the surgical approach used, you may need to remind your loved one to refrain from bending, leaning, or reaching forward more than 90 degrees from the hips and from turning his or her feet inward or outward. Additionally, leg crossing should be avoided for the first eight weeks.
Contact the doctor immediately if there are signs of infection or a blood clot, or if your loved one falls. According to Dr. Brubaker, signs of an infection may include persistent fever higher than 100 degrees, chills, increasing redness, tenderness, swelling, drainage of the wound, or increasing pain despite both activity and rest. Signs of a blood clot include pain, tenderness, or redness in the leg, calf, or above or below the knee unrelated to the incision, and severe swelling in the thigh, calf, ankle, or foot.
A hip replacement will help your loved one regain mobility that they may have lost. The recovery time can be difficult, but it will be a lot easier with you helping out.