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Home Health Aide AssistanceAlthough there are many things to get done before having hip or knee surgery, an important aspect of getting ready is preparing the house where recovery will occur. Far in advance of going to the hospital for surgery, it is crucial to prepare the home to make recovery and life easier afterwards.

Consulting with a doctor, nurse, physical therapist or home health aide that knows the specifics of the individual’s situation and can make recommendations about home preparations in advance is critical.  Generally, there are a number of important preparations to consider:

Accessibility:

If possible, plan to have everything needed for recovery on the same floor.  While it is preferable not to use stairs at all initially, their use will need to be limited to once a day if they cannot be avoided entirely. In addition:

  • The bed used during recovery should have a firm mattress and be low enough that one’s feet touch the floor while sitting on the edge of the bed. Ideally, the bed will be on the first floor of the house.
  • A bathroom or a portable commode should be located on the same floor where most of the day will be spent.
  • Food and other supplies should be in a cupboard between waist and shoulder level.
  • Phone and charger should be easily accessible.
  • Frequently used items should be placed on the kitchen counter or another location that is between waist and shoulder level.
  • Chairs with a firm back should be located in each frequently used room, including kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, to enable sitting while doing daily tasks.

Supplies

There should be sufficient supplies at home to last several weeks, or as long as the doctor recommends.  In addition to regular supplies, there may be other items to consider purchasing with can be particularly helpful during recovery.  Items to consider include:

  • Canned or frozen food
  • Shampoo, toilet paper and other personal items
  • Medications
  • Crutches, a cane or a walker
  • A shower sponge with a long handle
  • A long-handled shoehorn
  • A sock aid to help put on socks
  • A reacher to help pick up things from the floor and assist with putting on pants and taking off socks

Bathroom Preparation

The bathroom presents many hazards so it is important to consider the following preparations:

  • Raised Toilet Seat: There are several ways to raise the toilet seat to help prevent excessive flexing of the knee.  Options include adding a seat cover or an elevated toilet seat, utilizing a toilet safety frame or using a commode chair instead of a toilet.
  • Safety Mats: Non-slip suction mats or rubber silicone decals should be put on the floor of the tub to help prevent falls.  A non-skid bath mat should also be placed outside the tub.
  • Bath or Shower Chair: A bath or shower chair with rubber tips on the bottom should be used for bathing. A seat without arms should be used in a bathtub.
  • Safety Bars: The doctor may recommend installing safety grab bars in the bathroom.  It is important to remember that towel racks cannot substitute as grab bars as they are not designed to withstand the weight of a person.
  • Placement of Essential Items: Items like soap and shampoo should be easily accessible and should not require twisting, standing up or straining to reach.  Towels and wash cloths should also be within easy reach.

Home Safety Preparation

To minimize the risk of tripping the following precautions should be taken:

  • Remove loose wires or cords in walking areas.
  • Remove loose throw rugs.
  • Fix any uneven flooring, especially in doorways.
  • Make sure there is good lighting in place.
  • Place night lights in hallways, bathrooms and other dark rooms.
  • Arrange for fast-moving or small pets that can cause falls to stay elsewhere during the first few weeks.

Other preparation

Other preparations to consider are:

  • Prepare or purchase single serving meals that can be frozen and reheated later.
  • If a health care professional recommends using a walker, attach a small basket or strong bag to it to hold important items such as a cell phone, notepad, pen, eyeglasses etc. Alternatively, a fanny pack may be used.  Nothing should be carried in one’s hands when walking after surgery as they may be needed to provide balance.
  • Practice using a cane, walker, crutches, or a wheelchair to correctly sit down to use the toilet and stand up afterwards, get in and out of the shower, use the shower chair and go up and down stairs.

Arrange for Home Care Assistance during Recovery

Unless someone lives at home and can help for the first 1 or 2 weeks after surgery, it is important to arrange to have someone come in who can assist with bathing, using the toilet, cooking, running errands, shopping, doctor visits, and exercising as needed. If a family member or friend cannot help, a health care professional may recommend having a trained caregiver or home health aide come to the home to help.  A home health aide or trained caregiver can also check the safety of the home and help with daily activities.