What to Expect in Recovery
Recovery from knee replacement extends long after you leave the hospital. Preparing for recovery requires learning what to expect in the days and weeks following surgery. It requires understanding what you will and won’t be able to do – and when. It also means arranging for social support and arranging your house to make everyday tasks easier and to help speed your recovery.
Find Someone To Stay with You
Because you will not be able to drive for several weeks after surgery, you will need someone to take you home from the hospital and be on hand to run errands or take you to appointments until you can drive yourself.
If you live with someone, you should have them plan to stay home with you or at least stay close by, in case you need help. If you don’t live with a family member or have one close by, a friend or neighbor may be able to help. Other options include staying in an extended-care facility during your recovery or hiring someone to come to your home and help you. Your hospital social worker should be able to help you make arrangements.
Prepare Your Home for Your Recovery
To prepare your home for your recovery, stock up on needed items before you leave for the hospital. Make sure you have plenty of non-perishable foods on hand. Prepare meals and freeze them to put in the microwave when you need an easy meal.
In the first weeks after surgery, you should avoid going up and down stairs. If your bedroom is on the second floor of your home, consider moving to a downstairs bedroom temporarily or sleeping on the sofa.
Set Up a “Recovery Station”
Set up a “recovery station” at home. Place a sturdy chair where you plan to spend most of your time sitting during the first weeks after surgery. The chair should be 18 to 20 inches high and should have two arms and a firm seat and back. Place a foot stool in front of the chair so you can elevate your legs, and place items you will need —such as the television remote control, telephone, medicine, and tissues— where you can reach them easily from the chair.
Place items you use every day at arm’s level to avoid reaching up or bending down. Ask your doctor or physical therapist about devices and tips that may make daily activities easier once you get home.
Devices you may find helpful include long-handled reachers to retrieve items placed on high shelves or dropped on the floor, aprons with pockets that allow you to carry items while leaving your hands free for crutches, shower benches that let you sit while you shower, and dressing sticks to help you get dressed without bending your new knee excessively.
Safeguard Against Falls
Because a fall can damage your new knee, making your home a safe place is crucial. Before your surgery, look for and correct hazards, including cluttered floors, loose electrical cords, unsecured rugs, and dark hallways.
Bathrooms are likely places to fall, so particular attention is needed there. A raised toilet seat can make it easier to get up and down. Grab bars in the tub can keep you steady. Textured shapes on the shower floor can minimize slipping.
Gradually Increase Activity
It is also important to exercise to get stronger while avoiding any activities that can damage or dislocate your new joint. Activity should include a graduated walking program (where you slowly increase the time, distance, and pace that you walk) and specific exercises several times a day to prevent scarring, restore movement, and stabilize and strengthen your new knee.
Your surgeon will let you know about follow-up visits. Even after you have healed from surgery, you will need to see your surgeon periodically for examinations and x-rays to detect any potential problems with your knee.
By preparing for surgery and recovery and following your doctor's advice, you can get the greatest benefits from your new knee with the least risk of complications for many years to come.