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Before surgery, your loved one may have pre-habilitation strengthening exercises to prepare for the surgery.  The surgeon may provide specific exercises or recommended physical therapy.  

As caregivers, your care journey may include pre-surgery activities, such as:

  • Ordering/renting a walker and a cane.
  • Going to the pre-habilitation session and learning about exercises. 
  • Attending medical appointments.
  • Providing additional transport if your loved one needs help getting places.

During this time, consider updating your loved one’s living space, which is crucial to ensure a smooth transition. 

Adjusting your usual, customary living space will benefit you and your family.  Here’s a breakdown of the top 3 areas:

Walking Spaces

Why: Make your home safe and comfortable for recovery.  A walker is commonly used after knee surgery when legs might not be strong or steady due to medications and other issues. Look over the places where the person spends the most time, like the kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom. Ensure there is enough room for them to move around with a walker. We must ensure they are safe when moving around the house, going to the bathroom, taking a bath or shower, or just fixing a cup of coffee in the kitchen. The walker requires space, so consider whether moving any furniture is necessary.  And remember to clear away clutter in each room to prevent accidents.

What to Do:

  • List things you and your loved ones must rearrange to fit the walker.
  • Entrance and hallways
  • Bedroom
  • Bathroom
  • Kitchen
  • Living room
  • Install grab bars: add sturdy grab bars in the bathroom, the front or side door, and along paths to prevent falls.
  • Clear clutter: remove small items and clutter to avoid accidents.
  • Non-slip mats are in place.  
  • Remove rugs to minimize uneven floorings. 

Walker Tip: Use tennis balls on the walker’s legs to prevent slipping and scratching floors.

Comfortable Seating

Why: Proper seating is essential for a comfortable recovery.  The knee-bending process is a crucial goal for recovery. The affected knee tends to be stiffer as it heals. Prolonged sitting in unsuitable chairs or sofas can be uncomfortable and may lead to the body compensating.  The individual won’t be able to bend their affected leg easily, and regular chairs may not be suitable for sitting for an extended period.  Seats that are too low or excessively soft can make both sitting and standing challenging.  

What to Do:

  • Walking around the house every hour is highly recommended during the healing process.
  • Check the seat heights of chairs with high back and armrests.
  • Avoid sitting on soft, low sofas.  A standard sofa height is 15-20” from the floor to the top of the cushion), and ensure they are firm.  Low seats make it tricky to get up again, and you don’t want to put stress on the knees.
  • Consider other assistive equipment: 
  • Look into purchasing or renting a recliner with a lift.  Contact your local medical supply store for assistance.
  • Adding a raised toilet seat with arm handles on both sides is recommended for better support for low-profile toilets. 
  • An ottoman, wedge pillows, or firm pillows underneath the knee can be a comfortable setup while sitting. 

Sleeping Space For Restful Recovery

Why: Prepare for changes in sleeping habits after surgery.  Chat with your loved one about where they want to sleep while recovering. Some folks prefer staying in their upstairs bedroom.  

It is recommended not to use the stairs more than once daily for the first few weeks.  Check with your surgeon’s advice.  

 After surgery, many find they have to sleep on their back. 

It’s a good idea to figure out with your family where they’ll sleep before the surgery so you don’t have to worry about it later. You can all focus on adapting to the recovery routine and handling daily tasks.

What to Do: 

  • Discuss bed placement/location: if needed, move the bed before surgery, as sleeping requirements may change.
  • Practice sleeping positions: start sleeping on the back. After surgery, keeping the feet and knees pointing straight up is recommended.  
  • Adjust bed height: consider risers if you have a low platform bed.
  • Have additional firm pillows to support the lower back if needed.   

What not to Do:

  • To avoid excessive stress on the new knee joint, you want to keep your knee as straight as possible while sleeping.  DO NOT sleep with the legs elevated.  
  • Do not use the wedge or pillows under the calf or knees when sleeping.  

You might need to make other changes to fit your loved one’s home. Getting things ready in the living spaces before the surgery can make things less stressful later on. Making these changes before surgery will make your home a safer and more comfortable place to recover.

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