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Respite Care After Surgery

Learn about your options after hip, knee, or cardiac surgery. Seniorly can help you prepare for a more comfortable recovery with respite care after surgery.

By Seniorly Editor · Updated Sep 17, 2021

Knee and hip replacements are common. As we live longer with more wear and tear on our joints, the number of joint replacements will continue to rise. According to a 2014 Mayo Clinic study, 4.7 million Americans had a knee replacement and 2.5 million had a hip replacement between 1969, when total joint replacements began, and 2010. More women than men have joint replacements and the rate of joint replacements increases with age. In fact, among adults aged 80 to 89 about 6% have a history of total hip replacement and 10% have had a knee replacement.

Additionally, thousands of people have cardiac surgery in the U.S. every day, typically to correct problems with their heart when other treatments haven’t worked or aren’t an option. The most common cardiac surgery, known as a coronary artery bypass grafting, occurs when a healthy artery or vein from somewhere else in the body is connected to a coronary artery that is blocked. Other surgeries are done to repair or replace the valves that control blood flow through the heart; implant devices, such as a pacemaker, to control the heartbeat; replace a damaged heart with a healthy heart from a donor; or treat heart failure, coronary heart disease, or abnormal heart rhythms.

All of these are major surgeries for which you will need significant time and support to recover.  The more you know what to expect and can plan ahead, the easier your recovery will be. 

What to expect post joint replacement 

Joint replacement surgery itself is relatively short and most people move better and have less pain than they did before following the surgery. Physical therapy can start as early as the same day of surgery and you may be up and walking with assistance one or two days later. Chances are good that you’ll leave the hospital after only a few days, but full recovery can take 3 to 6 months depending on the type of surgery, your pre-surgery health, and the nature of your rehabilitation.

Recovery from a joint replacement involves the right combination of rest, wound care, pain management, and physical therapy. A short term stay in a senior housing community before returning home can make the recovery period easier for both you and your primary caregiver.

What to expect post cardiac surgery

Immediately after surgery, you will most likely spend a day or two in the Intensive Care Unit and then several days in another part of the hospital. Doctors will monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and incisions.  

After discharge, there will be an initial period of recovery and then a structured program of cardiac rehabilitation to help you return to an active life and reduce the risk of future heart problems. The timing of these will vary depending on your overall health and the type of surgery you had, but in either case short-term care in senior housing can help.

Post-surgery, it can be hard to take care of yourself and it can be hard on caregivers, too. The staff in senior housing can care for incisions, watch for signs of infection or other complications, and help you cope with the after effects of surgery such as muscle pain, chest pain, or swelling. They can also handle medication and pain management for you. With their help, you can focus on resting and regaining the strength you’ll need to begin your rehabilitation.

Cardiac rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program that may start a few weeks after your surgery. If you are at home, you will most likely go to an outpatient rehab center.  In short-term care, your rehab can begin in the comfort of your room.

In addition to an initial medical evaluation and tracking your progress over time your program will include:

  • Exercise training. Physical training will start out slow. It will include cardiovascular exercises such as walking and cycling as well as gentle strength training. In addition to the work you will do while in rehab, your team will teach you exercises that you can continue on your own three to five times a week. This is important because exercise is one of the keys to lowering your risk of future cardiac problems.
  • Education. Your team will work with you to develop a healthy diet; manage pain and fatigue; and learn about your medications, how to take them, and potential side effects.
  • Counseling and support. Anxiety and depression are not uncommon after cardiac surgery, even among people who have never experienced them before. In fact, thirty to forty percent of people experience depression after bypass surgery. Many people ignore the symptoms, but depression and anxiety can have a significant impact on your recovery. Your rehabilitation program can include stress management skills, counseling, and referral to other resources that can help manage the emotional challenges of recovery.

Respite care may make your recovery easier

With respite care, all the care you need will be located in one place. You’ll also learn skills to help you maintain balance and agility. You’ll get help with cleaning and dressing the wound and trained staff will manage your pain medications as well as any other medications you may need. Short-term care can help with activities of daily living that you may not be able to do on your own during this time such as using stairs, dressing, making beds, or bathing. Many of the senior housing communities on Seniorly’s website offer these types of services along with rehabilitation and fitness programs through respite care.

Even if you have family and friends who can help you, they may not be available all of the time during your recovery. A short-term stay in assisted living can relieve caregivers of the stress of arranging care for you at home and give you a chance to focus on getting better.

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Seniorly Editor

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