Mayo Clinic defines knee replacement surgery as an operation in which the bones and cartilages that have been damaged by arthritis are removed from the knee, and replaced with a metal and plastic joint. This is a relatively major operation and most patients are discharged home three to ten days after it.
Once they get home, the first few days are the most challenging for them because of pain, post-surgery fatigue and frustrations arising from their inability to move independently.
When caring for such a patient at home, understand that they need patience as they readjust to their surroundings and their lost independence. Simple things you can do to ease their transition include rearranging the furniture to make it easier for them to maneuver their walker or crutches and removing area rugs that may make them slip. Consider also installing shower chairs, gripping bars and raised toilets to help them groom themselves in dignity.
Helping them exercise, per the recommendations of their physical therapist, is another thing you can do to help them recover faster and regain their mobility.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states that some patients can develop mild leg swelling after they are discharged. If this happens to the person you are caring for advise them to raise their leg, apply ice packs and wear compression hose.
If pain relieving, blood thinning or other medications were prescribed as they were being discharged, ensure that they take them as per the instructions. Monitor the dressings over the operation site and change them according to the hospital recommendations.
In addition, Johns Hopkins University recommends that the doctor should be notified immediately if the patient develops increased pain, swelling, redness or bleeding at the operation site.
At around six weeks after surgery, most patients are able to walk with minimal support according to the Cleveland Clinic. Help the patient you are caring for walk more confidently by holding their hand as they transition from using crutches and walkers.
If they want to help around the house, let them do light tasks like dish washing while steering clear from those that involve heavy lifting like vacuuming.
Most outpatient checkups are at around six to eight weeks after the knee replacement operation. Accompany your patient for this checkup and ask the doctor any questions you may have.
Written by: Marian Kim, FizzNiche Staff Writer