Managing a Loved One’s Postsurgical Care During COVID-19

Caring for another comes with its own challenges. Add something like the COVID-19 pandemic, and it can become much harder. If you’re helping a loved one recover from joint replacement surgery, this article is for you.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many elective surgeries, such as joint replacement procedures, to be delayed. Now that they’re starting up again, you may have a loved one with an upcoming surgery who has asked you to help during recovery. Under normal circumstances, caring for another isn’t always easy. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have increased concerns.

How can you help minimize putting your loved one, or yourself, at risk? Whether you are staying with your loved one or checking in periodically, there are things you might want to consider.

Because of COVID-19, we’ve been asked to distance ourselves from each other in attempt to slow the spread of the virus.1 How do you distance yourself while caring for someone? Some people decide that living together for a short period, if they don’t already, works best. Other people have simply social distanced from all other people, so that while they are still living in their own homes, they are only exposed to each other. This is something you’ll need to work out with your loved one before the procedure.

The CDC has also suggested wearing facial coverings and washing your hands often.1 Whether you’re living with the person you’re caring for, or checking in, washing your hands when arriving and leaving would be good habits to start. According to the CDC, these simple things can impact both of your safety.1 If you’d like more information on the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), click here. If you have questions about guidelines and safety, you can always ask the surgeon or his/her staff.

Before the pandemic, you would have driven your family member or friend to the surgery center on surgery day and waited during the procedure. You’ll still need to drive the patient, as most surgeries require some level of sedation, but you might not be able to wait in the facility. Rules vary and are subject to change, so check with the surgeon or facility about current policy. When your loved one is discharged, you’ll need to get the discharge instructions and drive the patient home.2

Your loved one will likely have follow up appointments within the weeks and months after surgery. Due to COVID-19, many doctors are offering telehealth and remote care options.3 Find out which appointments they recommend in person, and which are appropriate via remote care. Stay in touch with the surgeon during recovery, especially if there are any issues related to the surgical site. 

What do you do about getting necessities, like prescriptions and groceries? Many pharmacies and grocery stores have pick-up or delivery options available. You could also look into an online meal delivery service. GrubHub, PostMates, and Meals on Wheels are a few popular options. Another option is to ask a friend, other family member, or church to bring meals or host a meal train. There are even websites to help organize these types of events like Take Them a Meal and Meal Train.  

Something to remember when caring for another is that, even when social distancing, it’s important for the patient to stay in touch with friends and family. Texts, phone and video calls can help lessen any isolation the patient, or you, may feel. Encourage the patient to check in with friends and family often.

You may find that your loved one is stressed during recovery. Maybe you are, too. Surgery causes stress, and worries about the pandemic can increase that stress. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. While you are caring for the patient, be sure to take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest, eat well, and do things you enjoy. Take a break from the news and connect with others.4

While the virus has changed some things, it hasn’t changed your role as a caregiver. You are essential to your loved one’s recovery. You can facilitate conversations with the doctor, help make decisions, and lend a hand with day-to-day tasks. A key to being a good caregiver is being available and supportive.5 Despite any difficulties caused by COVID-19, you can be there for your loved one and still take care of yourself. 

References
  1. How to Protect Yourself and Others (2020, Apr 24). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html
  2. Fischer, S. and Savoie, F. (2020, May). Questions and Answers for Patients Regarding Elective Surgery and COVID-19. OrthoInfo. https://www.orthoinfo.org/en/treatment/questions-and-answers-for-patients-regarding-elective-surgery-and-covid-19/
  3. Levine, B. (2020, May). Waiting for or Recovering from Joint Replacement Surgery During the Time of COVID-19. American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons. https://hipknee.aahks.org/joint-care-at-home-during-covid-19/
  4. Coronavirus Disease 2019: What You Can Do (2020, May 8). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/what-you-can-do.html
  5. Cluett, J. (2020, Jan 5). Caring for a Loved One Who Had Recent Knee Surgery. Very Well Healthhttps://www.verywellhealth.com/caregiving-for-a-loved-one-recent-knee-surgery-4154262
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