For many, getting to the outside world for interaction and necessities is a major ordeal. When you have had a major surgery, or are recovering from an illness that required a stint in the hospital, the effects and efforts needed are amplified. More and more, safety policies are becoming standard practice in hospitals. People evaluate potential trouble spots in a patient’s home and life coupled with an attempt at preemptive measures to ensure a timely, safe release home. This article should help you anticipate some of the things you will come across, and help ease your way through the process in layman’s terms.
One of the things we look at when considering a discharge; mobility. For time’s sake, I won’t go into all of the other types of things that factor into going home. We’ll just focus on getting around safely. That in itself can be a burdensome, brutal thing and is many times, the cause of a delayed discharge. There are some steps you can take to help prevent this from happening to you.
First, ask your doctor about pre-surgical PT (physical therapy). It will help shore up the muscle structure you already have. Second, it gives the therapist time to get you an assistive device(s) (AD) that is/are right for you ahead of time and learn to use it in a non threatening environment in all the various scenarios you may need it at home. Third, it gives you added confidence you aren’t going to be stuck anywhere you don’t want to be stuck!
Once you’ve had the surgery, if you haven’t done the above, you will likely have PT ordered for you by your orthopedic doctor in charge (you will anyway, but it saves you steps and time having this pre-done). We will get you up and fit you with the device you need. We’ll do an evaluation based off of a report you have of your home. Here are ways you can ease your way.
First, have the number of stairs into your home, within your home, and around your home that you HAVE to navigate to function. Anything you don’t have to do, don’t until you’ve healed. Second, how far are you from town? What was your prior level of function (how far were you walking? Normal activities? Driving? Do you have friends or family that can help you during the day (have this in place prior!)? Do you have other adaptive equipment (shower chair, tub bench, hand held shower head, rails, bed side commode, grab bars…).
Now comes the hardest part. Your actual mobility when you’ve been under the knife. Just getting in and out of bed is a chore at this phase. You need to know any precautions and be able to apply them, be able to get in and out of bed in a reasonable time frame so you can toilet on time! Walking with good gait pattern and balance within your limitations and consistently, safely using your assistive device is the next step. To be reasonably sure you don’t have a fall, you need to practice these techniques each day until your discharge; more than once! Finally, the big kahuna for most folks is stair navigation. Your therapist will evaluate the safest means and devices to be used, and will carve out time to work with you to practice this. If you have stairs, it can’t be skipped!
I hope this article helps you in planning your elective (or not) surgery! You should have a base understanding of what people look for when anticipating your discharge, and should be asking questions, and getting your equipment and training as much in advance as possible to ease your way and make you as safe as you can be with an impaired joint or limb. Take care and next time we’ll talk about some ways disabilities can affect your life and the effects on those closest to you.