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Prepping Your Home Before Joint Replacement Surgery

Updated: Feb 7, 2021

So, you've decided to have hip or knee joint replacement surgery. That's a huge decision and you want to make the returning home process as smooth as possible, so here are a few ideas you may want to think about, especially if you live alone or just if you want to be a little more independent.


- Make sure you get rid of any trip hazards. The majority of people will return home using crutches or sticks, and in some cases, a walking frame. The last thing you want is to send yourself flying because you've left wires across the room, books on the floor or loose rugs in the middle of the room. Having a fall may damage your new joint and give your confidence a huge knock, so walk all of the routes in your home beforehand and check they are clutter and trip-hazard free.


Loose rug
Get rid of rugs on the floor temporarily.

- If something isn't removable e.g. wire to a speaker, internet cable etc, then try to tape it down so it's less likely to get caught on your feet or walking aid.


- Make sure you have communication devices e.g. cordless phone, mobile phone and associated chargers etc. close to hand. If you usually charge your phone upstairs, consider buying an additional charger for downstairs. If you live alone, make sure you have an easy way to call for help if needed. In some cases, a personal alarm that you can wear can be a reliable option.



Phone, charger
Have a phone and charger easily available.

- Pre-prepare food and make sure the store-cupboard items you use regularly are easy to reach and plentiful. This is where a large freezer comes in handy because you can prepare and freeze meals for yourself or stock-up on ready-made meals, however it's advisable to check that they are nutritious and not full of processed ingredients. My preference when preparing ahead of time would be to make the food myself to freeze it, because then I know what the ingredients are. Also, think about setting up grocery home delivery if you haven't already done so, just in case.



Nutritious meal preparation
Prepare nutritious bulk meals in advance and freeze them.

- Get cooking utensils, cutlery and crockery etc out of low or very high cupboards so that everything you need is at an easily reachable height. It may mean your work tops are a little busier for a few weeks, but it can make life much easier once you get home for the first week or so.


- If you love to cook, consider getting yourself a perching stool to make life easier during the recovery phase, but remember not to stand/sit up for too long as this doesn't help to reduce the swelling. Also, think about having somewhere easy to sit within reach of the cooking area if you're living alone, so you don't have to carry food in to another room, especially in the first few of days of returning home. Remember, standing for long periods can also cause increased swelling, especially in your ankles.


Kitchen, easy access to items, perching stool.
Have items easily available and a perching stool if possible.

- On this note, have some pillows readily available so you can elevate your legs on the sofa, on the poof or on a recliner chair. If you don't have any of these then use a separate kitchen/dining room chair as a foot stool. Periodic elevation in your post-op recovery is really important.


- If you're having a hip replacement, some places will advise you to be careful about certain precautions post-op e.g. not twisting on the operated leg, not crossing your legs, not sitting on a surface lower than your knees (i.e.angle between your torso and thighs no less than 90 degrees) and likewise, not leaning forwards when sitting. Check with the surgeon or physiotherapist on the ward. They may also provide you with items such as a perching stool, trolley, grab stick, raised toilet seat, shower seat, leg lifter etc before the operation, however this varies from place to place.


Sturdy chair with side table.
Find a comfortable chair of good height, with arms ideally, that's easy to get up from.

- One really important thing is to lower yourself slowly into your seat / chair and not drop down quickly as this can cause a jarring effect and be painful. Practice this before you go in for your surgery so you feel confident, and so you know which chair you're planning to use and that it will be comfortable. Make sure it's not too low, preferably has arms and somewhere to put things you may want / need. Many sofas can be a struggle to get out of at the best of times so have a think about what you can manage easily.


- If you have steps in to the house without a rail, or internal steps without anything to hold on to, consider putting a rail / hand hold up, more so if you lack confidence in your balance in general or your steps are steep. You don't want to feel afraid to get in and out of the house or between rooms once you get home, although normally people find their confidence improves a lot within the first few weeks after getting home. If needed, your physiotherapist on the ward should teach you how to use stairs/steps without a rail so you feel confident before you go home. If this is something that you will need to do at home and it's not been discussed then ask before you get sent home. Walking is something that most people are advised to start building up slowly after the operation, so being able to get in and out of the house safely and confidently is really important.


Stairs without suport
Remove rugs, think about temporary hand rails or grab handles on steps without anything to hold on to.

- Some people choose to bring a bed downstairs temporarily so they don't have to climb stairs. This can be useful for people who live alone, or that are particularly anxious about navigating the stairs on their return home. Again, you should undertake a stairs assessment if needed before you are discharged home, which will help your confidence, and many people do actually find stairs a lot easier after surgery than they imagined, especially if you have a rail to steady yourself.


- Have some cold packs/frozen peas in the freezer ready for when you get home. Some places provide patients having a knee replacement with a cold cuff (e.g. cryocuff) to place around the knee however this is expensive, so it is becoming less common. Having some cold packs to use can help with pain management, but make sure you wrap them in a towel and only use them for 10-15 minutes maximum every two hours, and only if you don't have circulation or sensory problems. Always keep an eye on the skin to ensure you are not getting cold burns / frostbite.


Walking with crutches or sticks
Most people return home with crutches or sticks.

- Have some carrier bags available in easy reach so you can easily transport items you need from place to place, or a sweater with large pockets, a small backpack or an apron with large pockets etc. Negotiating both using crutches and carrying things at the same time can be problematic and distracting, so be prepared so you don't have to think about it when you get home.


- One other option for those of you who live alone, is to consider staying with family or a close friend for the first week or so after the operation. Just remember, if you go out of area it may be more difficult to organise your follow-up physiotherapy / medical appointments, so discuss this with the place where you are going to be having surgery and your family/friends beforehand. You will also need to make sure that they remove any trip hazards in their home before you arrive. Alternatively, you may have a friend/family who would be willing to stay with you for a short time following the operation if this would help to make you feel more confident and less stressed about being home alone post-op.




- If you live alone and decide to return home post-op and you have a dog, it may be worth checking out some local dog walking services in advance so you can arrange for your dog to get out on some walks while you're not walking quite so far. That way your dog will be happy, and you won't have the added stress or guilt of your dog not getting enough exercise.



Finally, good luck and take your rehabilitation seriously. Prepare well, put in the work before and after surgery, and you will set yourself up for a good outcome. Just remember, don't compare yourself to others. Often it can take 12-18 months to fully recover after joint replacement surgery and everyone is different, so persevere and think positive with your goals in mind.


Please note: This article is intended to be for educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice or replace professional assessment or personalised advice.

I do not hold responsibility for the information on any links to external websites within this article and information within these links/websites may change at any time or no longer be accessible. Any website pages/links added are also for education purposes only.

#physiotherapy #holisticphysiotherapy #healthcoaching #getreadyforsurgery #osteoarthritis #osteoarthritismanagement #totalkneereplacement #TKR #totalhipreplacement #THR #unicompartmentalkneereplacement #UKR #arthroplasty #housepreperation

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