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Getting your home ready - after the hospital

Introduction

Almost everyone is excited about going home after having major surgery or being ill in the hospital.

Setting up your home to make your life easier and safer will help ensure that your recovery will be complete and fast.

  • Do this well in advance of any planned surgery.
  • Have friends and loved ones do this for you if your stay in the hospital was unplanned.

Ask your doctor, nurse, or physical therapist about getting your home ready. You may not need all of the changes listed below, but read carefully for some good ideas on how you can remain safe and healthy in your home.

Make It Easy for Yourself

Make sure everything you need is easy to get to and on the same floor where you will spend most of your time. If you will need to use the stairs, you should limit using them to once a day.

  • Set up your bed on the first floor if you can. You may not need a hospital bed, but your mattress should be firm.
  • Have a bathroom or a portable commode on the same floor where you will spend most of your day.
  • Stock up on canned or frozen food, toilet paper, shampoo, and other personal items.
  • Either buy or make single meals that can be frozen and reheated.
  • Make sure you can reach everything you need without getting on your tiptoes or bending down low.
  • Put food and other supplies in a cupboard that is between your waist and shoulder level.
  • Place glasses, your teapot, and other items you use a lot on the kitchen counter.
  • Make sure you can get to your phone. A portable phone can be helpful.

Place a chair with a firm back in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and other rooms you will use. This way, you can sit when you do your daily tasks.

If you will be using a walker, attach a sturdy bag or a small basket to it to hold your phone, a notepad, a pen, and another other things you will need to have close by. You can also use a fanny pack.

Get Some Help

You may need help with bathing, using the toilet, cooking, running errands, shopping, going to the doctor, and exercising.

If you do not have someone to help you at home for the first 1 or 2 weeks after surgery, ask your doctor or nurse about having a trained caregiver come to your home to help you. This person can also check the safety of your home and help you with your daily activities.

Some items that may help:

  • A shower sponge with a long handle
  • A shoehorn with a long handle
  • A cane, crutches, or a walker
  • A reacher to help you pick up things from the floor, put on your pants, and take off your socks
  • A sock aid to help you put on your socks
  • Handle bars in the bathroom to allow you to steady yourself

Bathroom Setup

Raising the toilet seat height may make things easier for you. You can do this by adding a seat cover or elevated toilet seat or a toilet safety frame. You can also use a commode chair instead of a toilet.

You may need to have safety bars in your bathroom. Grab bars should be secured vertically or horizontally to the wall, not diagonally.

  • Do not use towel racks as grab bars. They cannot support your weight.
  • You will need two grab bars. One helps you get in and out of the tub. The other helps you stand from a sitting position.

You can make several changes to protect yourself when you take a bath or shower:

  • Put non-slip suction mats or rubber silicone decals in the tub to prevent falls.
  • Use a non-skid bath mat outside the tub for firm footing.
  • Keep the floor outside the tub or shower dry.
  • Place soap and shampoo where you do not need to stand up, reach, or twist.

Sit on a bath or shower chair when taking a shower:

  • Make sure it has rubber tips on the bottom.
  • Buy a seat without arms if it is placed in a bathtub.

Avoiding Falls

Keep tripping hazards out of your home.

  • Remove loose wires or cords from areas you walk through to get from one room to another.
  • Remove loose throw rugs.
  • Fix any uneven flooring in doorways. Use good lighting.
  • Have night lights placed in hallways and rooms that can be dark.

Pets that are small or move around may cause you to trip. For the first few weeks you are home, consider having your pet stay elsewhere (such as with a friend, in a kennel, or in the yard).

Do not carry anything when you are walking around. You may need your hands to help you balance.

Practice using a cane, walker, crutches, or a wheelchair. It is especially important to practice the correct ways to:

  • Sit down to use the toilet and stand up after using the toilet
  • Get in and out of the shower
  • Use the shower chair
  • Go up and down stairs

Review Date: 8/12/2011
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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