Surgery can be risky to even the healthiest people. And not only that but once you get through your surgery, post-surgery can carry risks as well. Elderly individuals are at even greater risk for post-surgical complications, and the rehabilitation process can often be long and difficult. Specifically, because much of the elderly population has a pre-existing or age-related condition that can slow down the healing process. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that one out of every five elderly patients are back in the hospital within a month after they are discharged after having surgery. If you are an elderly patient about to undergo surgery or know an elderly patient in this situation, you can use these tips to prevent going back to the hospital with surgical complications.
1. Doctor’s Orders
No matter what your age, you are probably guilty of choosing which of your doctor’s instructions you will follow. While you may have gotten away with this during your youth, it is imperative that you follow their directions later in your life. While some of the directions may seem ridiculous (“Why can’t I take a bath after surgery?”) they are in place for a reason. If your doctor gives you an instruction that does not make sense, make sure to ask them for clarification. If you think one of their instructions sounds silly, such as not being able to take a bath, feel free to ask them why. They will be sure to explain all their instructions so that you can understand why they are important.
2. Diet and Exercise
Eating properly is important every day, especially for senior citizens who may have conditions like COPD or diabetes. Additionally, proper eating is especially important after surgery. Staying hydrated and getting the proper nutrients helps to speed up the recovery process. While it may be difficult to eat or drink due to lack of appetite, constipation, or nausea, it is important to try as hard as you can to eat the proper foods after a surgical procedure.
Additionally, exercise can help keep you healthy. Believe it or not, but a slow stroll can keep your body in shape and healthy. You may need to walk slow and use a walking cane, but that won’t hinder the benefits. Just get out there and enjoy the fresh air!
3. Infection Prevention
One of the biggest risks with surgery is an infection. This is especially true for the elderly, who have weakened immune systems and often don’t have the energy to clean their area and bathe as often as they should. Make sure to wash your hands before touching your incision every time, and keep it properly wrapped or bandaged, as instructed by your doctor.
4. Follow Up Appointments
Once you have been discharged from the hospital, you may feel like you never want to go back. Unfortunately, surgical procedures typically require follow up appointments, and these are extremely important. As an elderly person, it may be difficult to get to the doctor’s office again whether due to respiratory, transportation, or other issues. It is important to make all necessary arrangements to get to a follow-up appointment.
Follow up appointments are key, as they allow you to let your doctor know how you have been feeling and how your recovery has been. Your doctor will also want to look at things that you may not be able to observe yourself. This is especially important if you cannot see the incision yourself. They may also need to do blood work or check if the surgery has rectified the issue.
5. Pain Management
Taking pain medication is not a sign of weakness. It is essential in the healing process. For example, if you are in so much pain that you are repressing coughs, you risk contracting pneumonia, which can be life-threatening to the elderly. Being in so much pain that you can’t walk can lead to pneumonia as well as blood clots.
While you may not be able to completely eradicate your pain after surgery, keeping it at a level that you can tolerate will help you move around which helps to circulate blood, thereby speeding up the healing process. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids if you are using any medications in your pain management regimen as these can cause constipation and dehydration. It is also important to use pain medication on a regularly scheduled basis as opposed to waiting until pain is present. This will allow you to maintain a tolerable pain level throughout the day, and will also prevent you from becoming addicted.
Surgery is not something that anyone looks forward to. However, by following the proper post-surgery tips, you will soon be on your way to a complete recovery.