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What do I need after a Hip Operation?

How to thrive at home after a hip or knee replacement

Having a hip or knee replacement surgery can be overwhelming. People worry that recovery will take a long time, or that they will have to change their lives. But modern technology and medical developments mean hip and replacements have excellent outcome rates, and by preparing for your surgery, following best practice advice, and investing in key pieces of specialty equipment, you can make a swift recovery.

How to prepare your house ahead of your hip or knee replacement

The weeks before your hip or knee replacement are a critical time. How well you prepare during this time can have a huge impact on your recovery. In the two, three or four weeks before your procedure you need to start getting your house ready. You’re preparing the house for when you get back from the hospital, when you will most likely have a crutch and your mobility will be a little bit limited.

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Here are some steps you can take to get ready:

Declutter: this is a relatively simple, but vital step. It’s what we call your own personal zero-cost insurance. The goal is to remove any items on the floor that will impede you or trip you up. A good idea here is to map out how you move through your house - from the sitting room to the kitchen, to the bathroom, to the bedroom - and clear the pathways of any obstacles.

Re-organise your kitchen: again, this is a simple step but it will make a big difference. Consider tasks you do regularly in the kitchen, like making a cup of tea. Make sure your teabags, cups, spoons and milk are all at hand. After your surgery, you will need to avoid overextending your body - bending down or stretching up - so it’s good to have important items within easy reach.

Re-site your bed: this can help in the initial few days after surgery to avoid having to use the stairs. This will be particularly important if you don’t have a bathroom upstairs, and would have to go downstairs during the night. If you can’t relocate your bed and you don’t have a bathroom upstairs, you should consider getting a commode for through-the-night-toileting.

Line-up help: for the first week, it’s a good idea to have people at hand during key points of the day: in the morning when you’re getting up and in the evening when you’re going to bed, for example. Depending on how mobile you are, it can be useful to have help when you’re getting dressed/undressed, or in and out of the shower. While it can be helpful for the first week, avoid depending on people too much as you will want to get back to being independent quickly.

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Invest in medical aids: before your surgery, you should take time to visit a specialist medical supplier to chat about the equipment you will need. Don’t rush this step. The most important equipment - raised toilet seat and shower chair - come in different sizes so it’s crucial you don’t buy an off-the-shelf item. The equipment will be most effective if it suits your exact measurements; if you’ve had a hip replacement, your hips will need to be higher than your knees whenever you are sitting down. After your surgery, you will need to avoid bending down; devices like a picker, a long-handled shoe horn and a sock aid will help you with this in the critical first few weeks.

What can I expect after my hip and knee replacement surgery?

This is when all your planning will pay dividends. Knowing that your house is all set to help you heal and recover, you can focus on regaining your mobility and your independence. The recovery phase typically lasts between six to eight weeks. To a large extent, the length of time it takes to recover from hip or knee replacement surgery will depend on you.

Follow expert advice: key to your recovery is following the advice and exercises you’ve been given by your consultant. These exercises are designed to help you recover as quickly as possible. As well as the exercises, try to walk around as much as you feel comfortable with. Your joint will heal faster without the crutch, so try and migrate away from that quickly. Be awarethough, that it is a fine line between striving for a swift recovery and taking short cuts; the exercises are necessary, and will reinvigorate the muscles and nerves around your hip or knee, helping you to achieve a full recovery, and avoiding problems with other joints.

Develop an independent mindset: your approach to the healing process will be the driving force that gets you through those first weeks. It’s natural to feel anxious and wary of putting weight on the new hip or knee. But to aid your recovery you will need to take firm steps towards being independent as much as you can. Becoming too reliant on help from others can prolong your healing process, so day by day, try to focus on doing a little bit more, walking a little bit more, all while sticking to the advice you’ve been given.

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Consider other equipment to ease your recovery: certain equipment, like a raised toilet seat and shower chair, are necessary for your recovery, but there are other devices that while not essential, can make a difference. Grab rails around the house can give you a bit of help in key areas as you move around; a turning disc in the car seat can help you rotate your pelvis and swing your legs in and out of the car; a handybar, that fits into the car door catch will give you that extra bit of support getting out of the car; and an elevator wedge can slot into any seat, helping you to maintain that perfect pelvis position.

Think about your hip or knee replacement as two different phases: pre and post surgery. Before the surgery is when you do the preparation: ask your consultant all your questions and get as much information as you can, speak with a medical device supplier to get the best equipment for your recovery, and get your house ready. Post surgery will be all about putting that information into practice: performing the exercises, using the devices, and developing an independent attitude. Taking these steps, will dramatically help your healing process

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