If you’re considering shoulder replacement, you may be worried about how you will take care of yourself after surgery. Maybe you live alone. Maybe you have busy friends and family members and worry about being a burden. Maybe you worry about having people coming into your home when you aren’t able to clean it as much as you usually would, or can’t be the host you might hope to be. Maybe you have concerns about catching an infection from someone coming into your home to care for you. While it’s impossible to anticipate every postoperative concern our patients may have, there are some that come up often, and there are opportunities to prepare before surgery to make things a bit easier during the recovery phase. The more you can prepare before surgery, the less stress you might have about these things after surgery, and then you can just focus on getting well.
As always, you should discuss any concerns you have with your care team, which includes your doctors, nurses, and other professionals such as PAs and/or NPs, physical therapists, occupational therapists and more.
Write down your concerns ahead of time and jot down the answers. Also, ask for written education such as pamphlets and booklets and review them thoroughly. You should also receive discharge instructions, which cover things like how to care for your incision, any motion or weight lifting instructions you might have, and when you should call your surgeon’s office.
Movement is important during recovery after any joint replacement surgery to prevent clots. You should have a safe place on level ground which is free obstacles, such as a hallway or sidewalk where you can walk around several times a day after surgery. The therapists in the hospital will also show you some exercises for your arm which you should begin after you get home and continue until you start outpatient therapy, which is typically a couple of weeks after surgery. If you can, consider making temporary changes to your home ahead of time like moving rugs and clutter to reduce tripping hazards and fall risk, moving items from higher cabinets to countertop height, precooking or preparing in advance easy meals such as sandwiches to make it easier on yourself after surgery.
It is also helpful to have a list of emergency contacts with phone numbers and a list of your doctors’ contact information and medications you are taking on the fridge. That way, if someone does not to come into your home to help you, such as an EMT or home health care nurse, they can access it to be better equipped to help.
Talk to friends and family and neighbors before surgery about getting help with things like rides to follow-up appointments or trips to the pharmacy. You won’t usually need for someone to stay with you around the clock, but it can be helpful if someone can check in once a day. Home health services may be available to assist with things like bathing, dressing and meal preparation. They do not do housekeeping or pet care, so you may want to arrange for some assistance with that.
Prior to surgery, you might also consider installing safety features at home, many of which insurance may cover, such as shower chairs, non-slip mats, and toilet risers. While you will be able to use the toilet as you normally do, keep in mind that you won’t be able to push yourself up from the seat with the operative arm in the postoperative period.
You can also pick out clothes and place some outfits somewhere within easy reach. Tank tops with large arm holes or button-down shirts are usually easiest after shoulder replacement surgery. There are also commercially available postop shirts with Velcro on the sleeve of the operative arm to make it easier to take on and off.
It can also be helpful if you have a mini-fridge next to your bed or recliner for ice packs.
Finally, it can be helpful to place the microwave as well as some basic groceries like soup cans and plates and utensils at counter height if they are normally up high. You can also clear a shelf at waist height in the fridge to place simple prepared meals or ingredients to make things like sandwiches so that they will be within easy reach after surgery.
By Oklahoma Shoulder Center PLLC
May 1, 2021