Caring for the elderly after surgery
By Katie Callahan
Following any surgical procedure, older adults should be mindful of any postoperative pain or symptoms that might indicate other issues upon arriving home after their hospital stay.
Older adults often describe having moderate to severe pain at some point after a major surgery, according to Medscape Multispecialty's "Postoperative Pain Management for the Aging Patient" by Deborah Dillon McDonald.
McDonald says in the article that "higher pain intensity in postoperative older adults has been linked to increased anxiety, delirium, decreased ambulation (movement from place to place), increased pulmonary complications, longer hospital stays, decreased functional status two months postoperatively and poorer ambulation six months after hospital discharge."
According to Paul K. Mohabir and Jennifer Gurney in an article called "Postoperative Care" in Merck Manual, critical immediate concerns after surgery are airway protection, pain control, mental status and wound healing. Other concerns are preventing urinary retention, constipation, deep venous thrombosis (blood clot in deep veins of the body) and blood pressure variability.
Particularly, Mohabir and Gurney said that elderly, especially those with dementia, are at risk of postoperative delirium, which can delay release and increase risk of death. So the mental status of elderly should be well monitored frequently during the postoperative period.
Along with this concern is loss of muscle mass from complete bed rest, during which elderly can lose up to five percent a day because of the way growth hormone levels decrease with age.
Thus, making sure that the individual can move around by sitting up, moving to a chair, standing and exercising is important, or at the very least, optimize nutritional intake.
Because of some of these risk factors, Care.com reports that many people believe it's important to have a caregiver with the patient at all times to help with recovery. Care recommends accompanying the older adult to post-surgical doctor's visits to take notes on the patient's behalf regarding care and medications.
Having someone present to care for your loved one after surgery can be helpful in making sure they're following doctor's orders and getting any follow-up attention they need, according to Care. After surgery, older adults may have trouble sleeping, struggle to regain strength, take longer to return to normal behavior and need relaxation exercises and other support.
All Seasons Homecare can help. Check out our services here.