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How to help your parent recover from hip replacement surgery

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The idea of undergoing hip replacement surgery can be daunting, both for the patient and their family.  Read on for three ways you can help your parent or other loved one recover from their hip replacement surgery.

Optimise their nutrition

As hip replacement surgery is a major procedure it takes a huge toll on the body's nutritional stores.  Whether the surgery was done in an emergency after Mum broke her hip or a carefully planned operation to help improve Dad's mobility their nutrition in the days after the surgery is very important for their recovery.  A 2016 study showed that poor nutritional status before planned joint procedures such as hip replacement surgery increases both the risk of complications and time spent in the hospital.  Nutrition after the surgery is also important for those having surgery after a hip fracture, as shown by an earlier study.

What will help?  A balanced diet, rich in good quality protein, carbohydrates and fats with plenty of fibre is what you need to help your parent aim for.  Discuss their nutrition with their treating team and find out how their doctor and other health professionals will be supporting your parent's nutritional status in the hospital.  Offering to help with shopping and meal preparation before the operation and after they return home will help your parent make the most of their recovery.

Prepare their home

Research shows hip replacement surgery puts people at a greater risk of falls in hospital. Falls can be devastating both due to their impact on recovering tissues and the risk of further injuries, which is why health professionals work hard to minimise this risk for their patients.  When your parent returns home after their surgery they will still be at a higher risk of falling so it's important to ensure their home is a safe environment.  Help them reduce clutter by packing away unneeded possessions, move items of furniture to give them a clear path through the house and check surfaces to make sure they aren't slippery.  Give them a safe and accessible place to put items they use often. When they're in the hospital you can ask for advice from an occupational therapist to ensure your loved one's home is a safe place for them to come home.  The occupational therapist can also help with devices in the home such as bars to lean on or stools to sit on when carrying out daily activities.

Help with transport

It can take some time for someone to recover from their hip replacement surgery to the point that they're able to drive, walk short distances or catch public transport.  Not only does this make it difficult for them to get to important medical or physiotherapy appointments but it makes it hard for them to do simple chores like shopping.  Discuss what your parent's needs are in this regard before they return home and see how you can help out.  Reach out to family members and friends to see if they can spare some time to help your parent with this.  Your hospital will be able to give you information on community groups who assist with transport.

Consider their emotional recovery

Your parent who has had hip replacement surgery has been through a huge amount emotionally. Even for a very resilient person the anxiety and fear around the surgery and the recovery period takes a huge toll.  Check in regularly with your parent to find out how they're feeling and let them know that you're there for them if they need a friendly face to discuss their concerns.  Be mindful of any signs that they may be getting depressed and remind them to touch base with their GP if they think they need extra support.  There's evidence that their psychological state can impact on their physical recovery, so you'll be helping them improve their mental and physical health by being mindful of the emotional aspects of their recovery.