Home Alone After Surgery


BoneSmart Staff
Nov 19, 2011
New Zealand
New Zealand New Zealand
I've started this thread at the suggestion of @snowleopard .

Some people have to manage on their own when they come out of hospital. It is possible to do so, with some prior preparation.

This thread is for people who manged on their own, to give tips and information about how they managed, what they planned in advance etc.
I was home alone for two weeks, one week after my PKR. My husband unavoidably had to go away for work.

  • We planned ahead and made the house as safe as possible for me.
  • I cooked and froze some meals before my surgery.
  • My bedroom, bathroom and kitchen were all on the same floor and I made a little nesting area in the living room.
  • We made sure that the pain relief medication was working OK and that I had sufficient for the time my husband would be away.
  • I always carried my phone in a bag I slung round my neck, so that i could call for help in the event of an emergency.
  • We laid in sufficient groceries in advance and then I ordered groceries on line and had them delivered.
  • I went to my post-op surgeon's appointments by taxi.
  • My husband phoned me twice a day.

It all went well.
Thank you, Celle! I thought about this in terms of needs, and here's how I'm handling (or wish I had handled) things. I have a two-story house with bathrooms on the upper story, so that's where I'm parked. Kitchen is out of reach downstairs. (Ground-floor exit in hillside home on both floors.)

Ice Big camper-sized cooler full of ice, in bathtub, with blanket thrown over it so I can refill cryo-cuff out of cooler

Meds Notebook for journaling meds and time taken, meals, therapy, etc

Staying clean Taking phone with me to shower, using a bench in the shower so dizziness is not an issue. Laundry is upstairs, and I have not found running loads to be a problem; have cleaning products within easy reach. Baby-wipes for between showers.

Food Having mini-frig and microwave on same floor I’m staying on; wheelchair available for additional mobility. Know that you might be a little more food-fussy than normal, because you're not feeling well and your appetite will be diminished. It's hard to eat anything non-appealing. So prepping some of your favorite foods ahead could be helpful. Anticipate craving healthful foods: fruits, veggies, protein. Have a few treats on hand, too. (Dark chocolate!) Disposable cups, plates, bowls, and silverware. Even if you're ecologically opposed, there's probably not a more justifiable time to use them. Kitchen-sized trash can upstairs in my food prepping area with extra bags stored in bottom. Exterior trash can with liner in it next to outside door.

Caretaking plants and animals Put out a pot of water on floor for cat, and a bowl of dried cat food Explaining to people who water plants to just drench the outdoor potted plants. I wish I'd bought those self-watering glass-bulbs for the houseplants.

Moderating temps (keeping house warm or cool) Non-issue, as I scheduled surgery for summer; if this was winter, it could be more critical, so definitely think this factor through when scheduling surgery, especially if you live in a place with extremes in climate, or have extenuating circumstances like heating with firewood. Summer? Screens on windows, exterior sunshades down before surgery. Fan available in bedroom, `nesting' room.

Miscellaneous Phone chargers available at bedside If you have family birthdays or other special holidays coming up post-surgical, pick up cards and gifts before surgery. If you have home-health PT coming in, and someone else is responsible for scheduling that, make sure it's done before surgery! Talk with the person who will be in charge of coming out and have something set up for your return before the surgery. (Ask me how I know.)
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Pre-prep for the house and for you (As posted by Josephine:)

Make sure all rugs are secure so you don't slip. Ensure everything is out of your way and put up so you don't trip over anything.

Clear away coffee tables and stools to make a clear path around the house.

Keep easy-to-prepare meals or freeze to reheat. Whatever you prefer.

Make a list of items you use everyday (groceries, toiletries, etc.) and then shop to bring in enough to last you a few weeks. Stock up the freezer, cabinets and pantry, so shopping isn't needed for a month or so. Not that others can't manage a trip to the store, but then you know you're prepared. That way you won't have to worry about getting to the store.

Be sure to try and pay your bills ahead of time or at least have them made out and ready to mail.

Make sure you have your recovery aids (raised toilet seat, walker, etc.) in place before you go - check with your hospital or O.S. office to see what the hospital provides.

Get a pedicure or have someone cut your toe nails before surgery in case you can't reach your foot afterwards.

Have your hair done to feel at your best.
A couple more thoughts:
  • Set a goal for yourself every day. Especially if you find sleep challenging and you're not meshing with other people's schedules, the days can kind of blend into one another. So having a goal and meeting it can help you feel like there's another day strung on the string. For me, the first shower at home, getting the laundry done, the first shower with no-one else around as a backup, walking into another room, stepping outside on the porch for awhile, etc., are all things that helped me have a sense of accomplishment. (I know--other people closed million-dollar business deals, gave birth, signed a constitution for a new nation; I made it through the bathroom without a slip-fall injury. Take your wins where you find them.) I find it helps me maintain an upbeat attitude.
  • If you have a pet, get some new toys for post-surgery. You will not be as interesting, and it will help both of you to enjoy this time a little more.
  • Learn to be okay with asking for help.
  • Lean on your support communities--be they virtual or local. I've read that one of the factors associated with a poorer outcome for knee surgery is depression, and so everything I can do to keep myself upbeat, I'll take. You tube dog-rescue videos? Talking cats? Stand-up comics on Netflix? Ummm, on a case-by-case basis. Make me smile, make me laugh. It's good for my knee.
I was semi-alone: I have a roommate and a semi-roommate(Different house, same property), but they both work and only really checked in on me once or twice a day. (I told the discharge nurse they'd be around all the time so she wouldn't worry) It was only a problem that first night home when I was worried about my pain medication (which seemed to be suppressing my urge to breathe! so I quit it and never looked back).

So what I would add is: arrange to have friends call you and/or stop by each day. Also know who you can call at any time of day or night to go to urgent care if you feel weird. Not that you will feel weird or that you will go to urgent care, but have that nailed down and you'll feel better.

I was having to pee buckets every forty-five minutes or so, which I think was good as it kept me moving, but you might want to think through your path to the toilet. Keeping moving helps a lot too- you hurt less and have less anxiety, I think, though you want to keep your movements gentle and not very challenging.

My laptop was (and is) my biggest friend.

The food I froze beforehand was not attractive when the time came, but you may have a different experience.
We rigged up a rolling chair with a tray so I could get food from one place to another in the kitchen so I could feed myself while I still needed crutches. I pushed it in front of me to the table and then sat down and put the food on the table. Here's a photo:


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Have a lot of soda crackers on hand!!! I froze all kinds of things before surgery and found I wanted none of them afterwards. I hadn't eaten soda crackers in years, but I lived on them for the first week. Now admittedly I had a lot of nausea; hopefully, you won't, but if you do--stay away from your favorite foods or they won't be your favorite foods anymore--this hint from my granddaughter who is in remission from non-hodgkins lymphoma.
Have easy to eat snacks like fruit, nuts or crackers handy. You definitely don't want to go without eating when taking pills, but when you're on your own at first with little appetite you want something easy to grab.
I've done two knees solitary. First one my brother and his wife came up to stay with me for about 5 days after which I was on my own. I coped perfectly well. I'd also cooked heaps of meals for the freezer and bought in a great store of canned and packet stuff. Never touch a bit of it! Second knee I was totally on my own except for my darling neighbour popping in 2-3 times a day! I had arranged for carers to come by every morning to stand by while I had a shower and see me upstairs and down again safely but after about 5 days I was okay on my own. No problems!
I spent a great deal of time cooking up meals ahead of time, only to find that I didn't want to eat them. As someone else said, I just didn't find them appealing, even though all were dishes I regularly ate otherwise. Also, you might think you'd crave healthy foods such as protein, but I actually found the opposite, I craved carbs, starting even with the first hospital meal where I reached for the bread roll before anything else! So, even if you are typically a low carb person, consider stocking in some good breads and cold cuts. For my first surgery (general anesthesia), I did not anticipate the prolonged "green" feeling I'd have, so I had to ask a friend to buy me some saltines, a food I'd never eat otherwise. In terms of general prepping for functioning alone, it is helpful to get all your incoming bills paid up and taken care of ahead of time. Also, I simply could not keep up with the very labor intensive ice machine and knee cuffs! Emptying and refilling wore me out. I finally went with the ziploc bags filled with alcohol and water. All I had to do with them was plonk them back in the freezer after using them. This may sound totally gross to some of you, but for my first surgery I did not have a portable commode, and the bathroom was down the hall. I kept a large sized plastic, recycled cottage cheese container in the bathroom, along with tissue, baby wipes and sanitary hand cleaner. In the middle of the night, it was a life saver, allowing me to avoid having to get the walker, turn on hall lights, navigate getting into and out of the bathroom, and then doing a return trip. For my second surgery, since Medicare paid for it, I had a portable commode. It was a blessing! Also, for those of you who are readers. For my first surgery, the general anesthesia fried my brain, and for weeks I could not focus enough to read. I've now heard this happens to other readers. I had picked out a whole box of books which I thought I'd whiz through. I didn't read a single one! About all I could handle mentally was those outrageous movies on Sy Fy like "Sharknado."
Everyone has such great suggestions, here's mine: if you will be using a walker, get a walker pouch for personal items like cell phone, kindle, and TV remote. Last year I initially jury-rigged a shopping bag with duct tape, but it was flopping all over the place and getting caught on doors. When the walker pouch arrived from Amazon it was like a gift from heaven.
Well this will be my biggest concern. I retired early to take care of hubby, who can have serious mobility issues. As long as he stays stable I will embark on my MSRA eradication process in Feb. I have had 2 knee replacements and I must say I admire ALL of you as I read about your ups and downs. I think the real unknown about how this will go down for each of us personally, is probably the hardest thing. I know from the past all these suggestions are great, and you just break it down and keep it one day at a time. First, I will have phase 1 where the old right knee apparatus will be taken out and joint cleaned. Then I will have an antibiotic spacer and what I call a noodle leg for about 3 months. Then phase 2 begins and I get good blood tests and a totally new knee replacement. I am realistic about the pain and function. I have had 6 surgeries on this right knee and scar tissue may be a big issue. I am staying positive since the main goal is to deal with the MSRA better since it is not keeping under control presently. I can drink Ensure some and use crackers at first. I remember before how prepared I was only to lose my appetite. I will have home health nursing as I will come home with a picc line. I can have provider services and think I will just try to use all the help that is offered. We live on a small ranch so I worry a little about some of the animals. I am thinking maybe my neighbor will help me some. I love doing organic chicken farming and am kind of a hobby farmer. I will just let the garden go, maybe my daughter might want to do it for that season. I am not a great gardener anyway. (lol) I will not be able to drive and my husband mostly does not drive. I hope to get someone from my church to help with that. I know my sister and her husband will come down for the surgery to take care of my hubby and give support. Any ideas will be a big help. I do have a step-daughter who lives with us, but is very busy working. Sometimes I am not totally familiar with how to respond on here, but you guys are all great!! Thanks ahead for ANY advice.
I'm glad you will have home health nursing and your church sounds like a good source of help. Jut be specific. Maybe there will be some ladies who love to garden but don't have their own gardens. You may want to post this in your own thread @old goat instead or too as it seems specific to your situation. @Jamie ?
Is it possible to be alone and handle cpm machine?

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Is it possible to be alone and handle cpm machine?
I'll ask @skigirl. I know she had one - but she didn't like it.

Although some surgeons recommend using a CPM machine, whether you use it or not isn't going to make much difference to your eventual recovery.

Some people find that it makes them feel less stiff at first, and they like it. Others hate it.

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