How to be a Helpful Caregiver

Caring for someone who has suffered an orthopedic injury and/or has undergone orthopedic surgery can be difficult. Knowing how hard to push them in their recovery and how best to support them is challenging.

Below are some tips to help you if you find yourself in the role of caregiver for an orthopedic patient.

  • Communicate: The first and most important thing you can do is talk to your loved one's surgeon. Ask questions about the procedure; what to expect during recovery; what potential problems you should watch for; how best to manage pain; and what sort of activity should be started and when. You should feel comfortable calling the doctor or his/her nurse with any questions after your loved one leaves the hospital or surgery center.
  • Be Prepared: Make sure your home is ready to accommodate your loved one after surgery. Depending on the type of surgery, this may mean setting up a temporary bed downstairs; having a wheelchair on hand; and having special bathing and toileting equipment on hand. You should also have all prescriptions (including pain medication and antibiotics) filled and on hand prior to the patient coming home.
  • Make a Spot: If your loved one will be confined to the couch or to bed for any period of time, it can be very helpful to plan ahead and make that spot be as comfortable as possible. Provide good pillows and blankets - including pillows to elevate the injured limb, if needed. But also think about what your loved one may need and put it all in a basket for him/her. These items can include a water bottle, snacks, hand lotion, lip balm, medications (including over the counter pain relief), the television remote, their phone with charger, books, magazines, etc.
  • Encourage Activity: Many patients have a hard time returning to any degree of physical activity following orthopedic surgery, which is understandable. However, depending on their injury and their treatment, most patients are encouraged to begin some type of light movement or activity relatively quickly after surgery. This helps the surgical repair to heal and prevents scar tissue build up. A patient who does not comply with doctor's orders in regards to movement (by either doing too much or too little) risks lengthening their recovery time or may cause complications. Talk to your loved one's doctor about exactly what type of movement or activity should be done and when. Then, help your loved one to do exactly what the doctor recommends on the timeline he/she recommends it.
  • Wound Care: Talk to your loved one's doctor about how best to care for your loved one's surgical incision. Keep an eye on it and watch for signs of infection or bleeding. Always wash your hands thoroughly before changing bandages or dressings.
  • Be Patient: Going through surgery and being unable to perform every day functions and activities can be very difficult. Be patient with your loved one and try to be understanding if their emotions are little bit like a roller coaster. Life will return to normal eventually!

For more tips on coping with an orthopedic injury, attend our Care Talk at Care Begins With Me or register to attend a free upcoming orthopedic event.

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