As Australia’s population ages, the number of patients seeking relief from osteoarthritis increases. Currently, more than 50 00 hip replacements are performed annually with patients spending an average of  five days in hospital. If planning to care for your loved one during his or her hip replacement recovery, it is vital to be prepared prior to hospitalisation. You will need to:

  • make your loved one’s home safe
  • procure assistive devices
  • arrange rosters for household and personal care duties
  • consider hiring a professional carer

Home Preparation

If your loved one lives in a high-set house or has steps inside the home, you may need a different place for hip replacement recovery. Weigh up the risks of falling or not being able to move around against the psychological benefits gained from being in one’s own home. You will need to:

  • create clear pathways throughout the house
  • remove rugs or any objects that might be tripped over
  • obtain a chair with sturdy arms that will help your loved one to get up and down
  • prepare a downstairs sleeping space if the bedrooms are upstairs
  • install a hand-held shower head so your loved one can adjust pressure and temperature

Assistive Devices

For the first few weeks, your loved one will not be able to bend his or her hip joint beyond a 90-degree angle. In order to give him or her some independence, a range of assistive devices should be obtained.

Walker: This will be needed to move around the house as well as in public when going to medical appointments and therapy.

Shower chair: Standing for any length of time will not initially be possible and this will allow your loved one to bathe in comfort.

Raised Toilet Seat: This elevates the toilet seat by several centimetres. Your loved one will not have to flex his or her hips in order to sit or stand up.

Reacher: A reacher or grabber helps to obtain items which are too low or high. Tongs can be used instead.

Sock aid: There are several designs which allow your loved one to pull on socks whilst sitting down.

Disabled Parking: Apply for a short-term disabled parking sticker. You will need a letter of recommendation from a medical specialist.

Your loved one may only need these devices for a short time, so it is best to borrow or hire them. It is possible to buy “hip replacement kits” which will have all the items you need in one package.

Constant Care

For a few weeks, your loved one is going to need constant care and monitoring. Someone needs to be available to help your loved one to stand, sit and move. In addition, s/he will need assistance with grooming and bathing, general housework, cooking, checking medications, visiting medical specialists, going to physical therapy sessions and maybe even managing finances. It is, therefore, important that other family and friends are notified prior to the operation and a list of duties is prepared. Use Google Calendar or a similar app to keep everyone up to date with appointments and organise rosters.

Professional Help

Investigate the possibility of supplementing help from family and friends with a professional carer. Tasks such as bathing and grooming may be easier and less embarrassing for your loved one. It will also provide you with much-needed respite.

Hip replacement recovery can be surprisingly fast as better mobility and reduced pain give patients a positive outlook. Make sure you plan carefully in order to ensure that the recovery process is as smooth as possible for both you and your loved one.

Image credit: "Mickey Mom one week post hip replacement surgery" (cropped) by Sandy Brown Jensen. (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic)

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