When a post-surgical patient returns home from the hospital, they will often feel traumatized and depressed. Scaffolding the patient’s ability to engage in self-care is a gift. One way to do this to set up a home-based recovery room they can easily navigate. Consider that while new parents very often return home to side-sleepers, and piles of diapers on a new diaper-changing station, there is little such systemic consideration for a post-surgical patient.
We forget the life-altering impact of a true cardiac emergency. Newly discharged cardiac patients may face a lengthy recovery period. Patients may feel disempowered. Open heart surgery is an immensely complex and invasive procedure. When they return home, many will need to continue to rest and engage in rehabilitation activities as directed by their medical team.
Here are some ways to make your loved one comfortable in a post-operative room at home.
- Make sure that their bed is comfortable and accessible. Fill a caddy with things like the telephone, remote controls, device chargers, etc. Make sure that they have ample light for reading. If an adjustable bed is something to consider, think about where to rent one.
- Heart pillows are a necessity. We recommend a few of them as they often need cleaning. While the pain will be controlled by the time a patient is discharged, things like coughing can still hurt. A heart pillow can be held by the patient and is specifically made to support the ribs and incision.
- Easy access to water is also an important part of post-surgical care. It is important to drink a certain amount of water, so helping a patient track this fluid intake with a bottle marked in liters is very helpful. Make sure that water intake is recorded and that the bottle is within reach.
- Constipation is common after surgery and it can be painful. Make sure your loved one is drinking herbal tea to help.
- Installing rails on the sides of the toilet enables a patient to enjoy some privacy.
- Give the patient a magnifying glass or print large labels for the medicine bottles. It’s hard for most people to read that tiny type. Consider using a pill organizer and filling it for the week in the slots for each day.
- Soothing meditation and/or healing affirmations may be helpful as well. Stress, by itself, is a leading risk factor for heart attacks. When the patient is able to move around more freely under the specific direction of their medical team, a gentle yoga class may be helpful.
- Finally, encouraging the person you love to consider talking to a therapist about their experience may help with the depressive symptoms many will understandably experience. There are many telephone therapy services that a patient can use from their home in the short (or the long-term) as they regain their strength and make lifestyle changes.
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