How to Care for Seniors After Heart Surgery

Author: Michael Gonzalez

Helping your senior loved one through surgery can be a daunting task, but also a labor of love. As with anything else that comes with aging in place, post-op recovery takes special planning to ensure the comfort of everyone involved.

If you are a caretaker for an older adult, you may find it easy to trust their doctors, but not so much when it comes to trusting yourself. Following, are some of our best tips for caring for your loved one after heart surgery.

Heart Surgery Recovery for Seniors

Open-heart surgery can be a scary time for everyone. Although it has become very routine, heart surgery is still a major and invasive surgery. Keep these tips in mind if you are the caregiver for a senior loved one who is undergoing heart surgery.

Prepare your schedule in advance. Recovery from heart surgery can vary. Some people bounce right back after just a week, while others may take months to get back to normal. Also, you will need to line up other trusted family members or friends to help. You’ll want to plan for meals, transportation to therapy and post-op appointments, and even the possibility that you may need to bring in professional home healthcare workers. It’s normal to guilty when you can’t be there every second, but you must also take care of yourself or you won’t be any good to anyone! Planning in advance also takes the burden of guilt off your loved one, who may be feeling like they are too much of a burden.

Understand the procedure. Ask the surgeon to explain all the details of the surgery. If you aren’t educated, it’s easy to let your mind go places that will produce unnecessary fear. The hospital will help you by giving you information to read up on, as well as walking you through the entire process from check-in surgery and discharge day. Going in with confidence will help you and your loved one sail through with flying colors.

Make sure you understand special instructions. There are often special instructions after surgery, depending on the age and health of your senior loved one. For instance, if they are frail to start with, they may require months of rehab, crutches or walkers, etc. It’s impossible to know all the variables about heart surgery, so utilize the time with the surgeon and ask them to please cover all the possibilities.

Understand discharge instructions. First of all, you need to understand that once the patient is discharged, they are in your hands. The hospital will provide extensive instructions for everything from special diets, to wound care. If there are other caregivers involved at home, they should also understand exactly what to expect and how to best care for the post-op patient. Communication is key, so talk through everything with each caregiver or family member.

Know what to watch for. Pain and nausea are the most common symptoms following any heart surgery. Knowing what is appropriate will help you determine whether or not to seek medical intervention. Understand in advance how you can treat pain and nausea and have that plan at the ready. It is hard to watch someone you love suffer, so being confident in the plan will help you stay calm.

Be ready at home. Keep in mind the things that should be done ahead of hospital discharge. These things would include having canes, walkers, crutches ready if needed, and making sure the home is ready. Clear pathways, set up a bed for recovery on the first floor when possible, and filling all medications.

Stay calm. Nothing is more important! Your loved one is depending on you, so it’s crucial that you remain confident and calm so you can make good decisions. Knowledge is power, so educate yourself all you can on what to expect. Know when to call the doctor and have that number easily accessed on your cell phone.

Caring for your older adult following heart surgery can be scary for everyone but it doesn’t have to be. Ask lots of questions—there’s no such thing as a dumb question! You can be the best caregiver your loved one needs as long as you feel confident. For more information, contact us today!

Home Helpers is a locally-owned, trusted home health care agency and offers quality, compassionate senior in-home care services including home care assistance, personal care, companion care, respite care, 24-hour live-in care, Alzheimer's & dementia care, Parkinson's care as well as homemaker services in Downers GroveAddison, Glendale Heights, Glen EllynLisle, Wood Dale, Bensenville, and Plainfield, Illinois.

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