Home Alone After Surgery

I did outpatient surgery (no overnight stay at the hospital) and live in a 2-storey house: bedroom and bathroom upstairs, living area and kitchen downstairs. Before the operation, I installed grab bars and raised toilet seats in the bathrooms, plus a chair near the shower, and I put away all our rugs and mats and cleared the areas I would be using to move around (removed small tables and lamps, etc.).

When I came home, although my husband was also home, I didn't need help to move around. I was able to manage the stairs alone with no problem, from the first day (they wouldn't let me out of the hospital until I'd been up and down a staircase). He hovered the first few times, but once he saw I didn't need help, he left me to it. For clothes, I had shorts, stretchy tracksuit bottoms, polo shirts and fleece jackets. A friend loaned me a device to help put on socks, but I didn't need it and was able to dress/undress alone from the beginning, including shoes and socks. I had prepared a backpack that I kept with me at all times. It contained my medication, my electronics (iPad, laptop and phone), spare chargers, a bottle of water and a couple of small snacks. I had installed charging wires by my chair in the living room and by my bed. I had two walkers, one upstairs and one downstairs, plus a walking stick with a tripod end that I used for stability on the stairs. For the downstairs walker, I cut a piece of wooden shelving and attached it to the structure, and was able to transport drinks, plates of food, etc., from the kitchen to the table or living room. I used a sealed water bottle for cold drinks and a thermos cup for hot drinks that had to be transported, in case they fell over. For food, I had pre-made and frozen a lot of meals, which my husband ended up eating. Virtually all I wanted for the first few weeks was scrambled eggs, toast, fruit and orange juice, with the occasional bowl of soup. I was able to make this for myself from the second day onwards, and transport it on my walker shelf.

My husband had to go away a few days after my operation (working abroad), and I managed perfectly well. A friend called me every week and brought groceries if I needed them. I have two dogs, but have a fenced yard, so I could just let them out when they needed to go, and feeding them was easy. They seemed to know I wasn't firing on all cylinders, and they were very good about not running into me or knocking me over. I watched a lot of TV in the early weeks (had recorded a ton of stuff beforehand). I actually preferred to be alone at first. The opioid medication prescribed by the surgeon made me feel weepy and depressed, so I ditched it after about a week and managed with Tramodol and Tylenol. The pain was worse but I felt better without the medication and became a bit more sociable. The health system sent a nurse to my home daily for the first week, to check the wound and monitor my blood, and also sent a physiotherapist twice a week for the first three weeks, to help with exercises. After that, a friend drove me to physiotherapy until I was able to drive myself.

If I were to do this again (over my dead body), I wouldn't worry about being alone if it was necessary. With a bit of prior planning, it's very doable, even with stairs.
I was able to manage the stairs alone with no problem, from the first day (they wouldn't let me out of the hospital until I'd been up and down a staircase).
That's the usual routine, @Ceegee. Most well run hospitals have a list of activities that we have to accomplish before they can list us as fit for discharge.
If I were to do this again (over my dead body), I wouldn't worry about being alone if it was necessary. With a bit of prior planning, it's very doable, even with stairs.
An excellent piece if advice. Well said
Concerning catboxes: Before my first hip replacement surgery, I hired my handyman guy to make two 24" tall platforms out of plywood, mounted on lockable casters, Each one capable of holding 2 standard sized catboxes up at a comfortable height. That meant I didn't have to bend down to scoop or lift a heavy box to dump the stuff. I still lean a 13 gallon kitchen trash can, lined in a garbage bag under the lip of each platform and after gathering the solid stuff sort of just scoop it over the edge into the trash can with a catbox scooper. Back when it was only the HIPS, I didn't need to sit down, I just sort of LEANED against the platforms and did the dumping with one hand while holding to my walker with the other hand. It was challenging but do-able. (If you are doing the whole DUMPING operation, when it gets bad enough, helps also to have a putty knife to scrape anything off the bottom.) That took care of the 4 catboxes in the cats' room.

I think, before my first knee replacement, I'll hire someone to make somewhat narrower platforms of the same type for the 2 overflow cat boxes I have in the nasty narrow hall that I don't use for anything else. The only problem then will be the one I have in the laundry room, stuck on the floor in the space between a cabinet and the washing machine.

I plan to drag in a nice sturdy chair next to the 4 catboxes in their own room so that I can sit down, since I've heard knee replacement recovery is far worse than hip replacements. Also, since the lighter scoopable litter doesn't really work for me (sticks to the bottom after cats have peed on it and turns to almost-cement! And is VERY nasty-messy to dump out since the chunks go all over the floor instead of in the can) and I use the classic, non-clumping Johnny Cat litter, I'll probably hire someone to come in to do the actual dumping, lifting the 20-pound bags and replacing old with new for awhile. Can probably get by with once a week for that. I know a cat sitter who promised she'd get someone to do it for me. I suspect someone who DOES pet-sitting could find someone for you.
Once the com machine is in place it is easy to use! Here is what I hated, it walked!! Do you need a footboard to keep it on the bed! I felt chained to it and preferred to just move my knee. Most of the studies have concluded that com are not helpful when rehabbing s knee!
Thank you for all the wonderful ideas. I am getting my right knee done August 29th. I will be in the hospital one night and then going home alone to a two story house and 5 large dogs. My dogs have the ability to go in and out of the house to a large fenced yard on their own. They will be alone the day of surgery until I get home the next day. I have finally locked in rides to and from the hospital. I don't really worry about handling it alone at home. I've been in massive pain for a few years now and have managed it. It just might be easier since there will be real pain meds available.
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@TKRDogMom Hello and so glad you are finding some great threads to help you plan and prepare.

We would love to see you with your own pre op thread.. our members and staff are pretty good cheer leaders and have comforting shoulders for the tough days.

If you decide to join us with your own thread, I see that you gave your surgery date but it helps to know which knee? Then the moderators will make up your signature to show on any post you make. You can see mine at the bottom of my post here. See how it gives you my surgeries and dates?
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I'll be home alone after some initial help. No pets, but a few droopy plants! Staircase up to my place. I drove in three weeks (short distances) on my right TKR but already readying my mind that no two surgeries are alike. Hope I don't have alot of swelling. I did NOT before. Getting up an off the toilet was good times last TKR, but I am prepared this time : )
...The hardest thing I've experienced is getting my leg into the taxi to go to physical therapy, worse than the physical therapy itself. Everyone 's experience is different, I know, but for me hasn't been nearly as bad as I expected. I went home the day after surgery with a peripheral nerve catheter so I didn't have any pain the first few days. I did have someone from a home care agency stay with me for one night, been fine since then.
Yes, I recall that when I used Uber/ Lyft. Some cars were very low to the ground. Hard to get in and out of without severe pain from the bending of knee initially. And some drivers were rushing me so I got tired of that and started driving myself with moderate pain but at least I could take me time without judgement. That never catheter really helped!
@NDSunshine Do you have someone who can watch your dogs for a bit until you don’t have to worry about them jumping?
Yes, the unpredictable movement of animals can be daunting. Also, my doctor (take home medical instructions) was no pets in/ on bed, on blankets and to change sheets often. I guess he was being a germaphobe which I can understand as the TKR incision is not small.
This thread has had a long life - with a lot of good ideas/suggestions. I'm at 8 weeks post-op LTKR and thought I'd add a couple thoughts. I was home all alone after Day 5….and there were ways I found it much more challenging than my experience with two hip replacements. Chiefly, I just found it more difficult to get around, much more tiring…so that by the end of the day, it was often PityParty time. I didnt have any need for someone here all the time…but what I craved was to be able to say- Oh, could you bring me a cup of coffee (or..whatever). Or, after finally getting myself organized and climbing into bed….realizing I didn't have the phone at hand (yeah, I tried to carry it with me like a 3d hand. Still…) Or, maybe I forgot to fill my drinking water. Always seemed like there was something and I'd have to climb back out of my nest and Do. For. Myself. It wore on me.

I found the worst, and most challenging, to be - trying to build my pillow tower so I could elevate, while getting/keeping the ice paks in position and keeping my leg straight …down my 5'9” length. In hindsight: the elevation pillow wedge that is recommended here……would have been SO worth it!!

Also, I ended up being not-a-fan of the ice machine. Cumbersome. And annoying to haul bottles of water to and from the fridge. But mainly because I often needed relief at the same time in more than just the limited area that machine patch covered. My ankle. My calf. My knee. Above the knee…. So I was really glad to have on hand from my hip surgeries multiple reusable ice paks of several sizes (not sure if it's ok to specify- but this is what I had…https://www.amazon.com/FlexiKold-Ge...s_21557305011_sccl_4/143-7093737-8584362?th=1. A larger one divided in three sections (great for wrapping around the knee, LOVED it) and two smaller (maybe 4/5” by about 8/9”). Side note: whatever route you go, be sure to have space available in your freezer for water bottles/ice paks! Mine was so crammed with pre-meals - (which, like many others have noted - were not really appealing early on) - that it could be a struggle to shove things in.

There are so many posts here, I don't know if this has been covered, but lesson learned: have some electrolyte beverage on hand. My second day at home, I got so woozy I truly thought I might hit the floor if I hadn't been standing near a counter (note to self: re think stepping away from the walker!). I'm a very sturdy sort of person, but that scared me. Fortunately, my son was still here, though out on an errand. I quickly dialed him: Bring home some GatorAde!!)

I’m no fan of pain and I was very fortunate that I didnt experience even as much as I thought I might. But those 2 elements of early recovery: exhaustion from doing EVERYthing for myself/by myself and the frustrating 'Pillow Tower fight' were two of my most negative memories of early days.
A question I have about sleeping, is a recliner necesary, or a bed with sufficent pillows adequate. Thanks!
A question I have about sleeping, is a recliner necesary, or a bed with sufficent pillows adequate.
No you don't need to buy a recliner. Most of us use the "pillow tower" approach and/or a lounge doctor. Check it out here:
Wow! Thank you for this thread. I will be home alone after the first two days. Now I might just get some saltines in my cupboard. The ice was not something I had thought of yet. A cooler full sounds like a good idea. Lots of good ideas to get me prepared to be stuck at home in the country alone. No delivery service here, but a friend said she would get me groceries when I need them. She lives about 15 minutes drive away from me.
Hi @Waterlady
I remember you since you had your THR around the same time as me, less than three weeks later.
I hope your hip has been serving you well. I am sorry you have to go through the process again, this time with your knee. Wondering which knee it is for your signature?
Hopefully you'll consider starting a Knee Pre-Op thread so we're able to leave you some information. The thread may come in handy as a record of your journey, especially when looking back at responses to any questions you pose there. Please join us!
Hi @Layla,
I remember you too. I had another THR on May 30, 2018. My knee will be the right side. I’m not looking forward to it as it will be a long process to recovery. I’m trying to look at the long range of when I will be able to do more of the things I enjoy as life is not over yet. Yes, I’ll start a knee thread.
Hi everyone. I am on day 22 after my first TKR, and I have been alone since day 6, so I thought I’d add to this useful thread. I’ve read through it, so I hope I won’t be too repetitive, though sometimes it’s useful to hear the same things a few times! It’s also worth adding that I will be having my other knee replaced in a few weeks, and have other health issues, so I was perhaps less able than many people are.

The first thing I’d say is that I really didn’t want to be on my own at first. I am used to my independence and privacy, but I felt very vulnerable, and wanted my son to stay longer than the two nights he did stay. I was very sorry for myself when he left. Rationally, I knew it was likely that I could cope, but emotionally I wanted to be cared for. Everyone will be different, but I think that’s worth bearing in mind when you plan.

I will say, though, that once I’d got my head round it, I think there are advantages to being on your own… It’s hard work and tiring recovering from surgery, and if you’re on your own, you can do it exactly at your own pace, sleeping as much as you need to, and doing your exercises and eating and relaxing and even crying, exactly when you’re ready. I can see it could be really hard sometimes to have to fit around other people during recovery - even just having to talk to other people sometimes, when you really don’t feel like it !

I found it very difficult to work out what I needed at first, often until after I was already too exhausted to get it. After a few days, I worked out that the solution to this was to have a stock of the same basic things upstairs by my bed and downstairs by my chair: water (LOTS of it), phone, fruit, other snacks, all my meds, entertainment, something to write on, tissues, grabber, and of course ice packs.

Ice packs were a big issue in the early days. My freezer is downstairs, but I was upstairs in bed a lot, and simply didn’t always have the energy to get to the ice when I needed it. I managed to borrow a mini fridge so I could keep ice upstairs, which made a huge difference. I also have a little travel kettle and teabags in my bedroom, and carried milk upstairs with me each evening, so I could have a cup of tea first thing in the morning, when I most wanted it.

I didn’t use the commode that arrived on day 9. It would have been a useful a few days before that, but by then, being forced to get up and move around when I needed the loo was even more useful. Also, I haven’t been able to work out how I could empty it by myself…!

While we are on the subject of toileting, I want to mention (though it’s a bit embarrassing) that I have had a number of accidents since my surgery. My sons and friends have helped me a lot with my washing and housework, but I really haven’t wanted them to have to deal with this! I am therefore using incontinence pads, for now at least. I am also going against established advice about trip hazards, because I leave a bath mat on my bathroom floor - which I navigate carefully - because it is the easiest way I have found to clean up any floor spills: squirt some anti-bac cleaner, put my weight on my operated leg, and use the other one to move the mat about, wash it…

I have a dog and she needs letting out, so I had no choice but to get up and go downstairs, but it is also very good for me to have a change of scene, and a reason to get up regularly. My sons and friends are walking her for me a few times a week, but other than that she is fine just wandering around the garden by herself. If she was younger, I would probably have had to think more carefully about dog care.

Getting up and coming downstairs every day has been very important for me, from a mental health perspective as much as a physical one.

My house is small, and my kitchen is only a few metres from my sitting room, but sometimes even that has felt too far. And carrying food and hot drinks when you’re using a walking frame or crutches is impossible/tricky and can be risky. My son moved my microwave into my sitting room, and set it up with a supply of cutlery and crockery, so I could feed myself more easily.

As others have said, my appetite has reduced since surgery, and the pre-cooked food and ready meals in the freezer seem very unappetising. My typical diet has been fruit and toast for breakfast, an avocado with cottage cheese or some reheated soup partway through the day, and a jacket potato with salad in the evening. (Plus snacks, of course - I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to those, although I haven’t eaten as many as I might have expected!) Some days, I simply haven’t had enough energy to feed myself in the evening, and I’ve been grateful to family and friends who have cooked for me some evenings.

I’ve got a few large 1.5 L water bottles, which I ask anyone who comes to fill up for me, so I can keep drinking plenty of water. I have only been able to carry them myself the last week or so.

On day 15, I managed to get hold of a secondhand electric recliner, and while it’s true you don’t absolutely need one of these (and I hadn’t intended to get one), there’s no doubt it has made my recovery much more comfortable and pleasant. I think fending for yourself uses up a lot of energy, and having somewhere comfortable to rest, other than bed, makes a big difference.

Other people have mentioned online shopping, getting prescriptions delivered from a pharmacy, etc. I think these things have probably become much easier to arrange since the pandemic. I have used Amazon Prime as much as grocery shopping, for pads and wipes and extra pillows and extra ice packs, and much more.

Notably, I haven’t had any face-to-face appointments since surgery, though I have had (or will have) phone appointments with my GP (twice), physiotherapist and surgeon, and more informal consultations with the pharmacist and hospital ward.

It is useful to clarify what will happen with your dressing before you leave hospital. There seem to be a lot of different arrangements, but in my case, I had dissolvable sutures, and a dressing I was instructed to take off myself on day 10. I think district nurses will do home visits to help with this if necessary, but actually for me, it was very easy.

It’s worth knowing (and I don’t think anyone has yet mentioned) that if you’re in England under NHS care, and you live alone and have needs you can’t meet by yourself, then you may be able to get NHS reablement care at home for about six weeks, rather than having to go from hospital to a rehab unit. This is different from the social care that is assessed and provided by your local authority, and is specifically intended to help people who have had medical treatment become independent again. It is free, whatever your income. The OT in hospital will refer you if they agree you need this.

Finally, I want to mention POCKETS! Pyjamas don’t have them, and a lot of women’s clothes don’t have them, but I have found them pretty much essential for carrying my phone and other little items around, when I’m using my hands for the walking aids. If you’re on your own, you can’t just say to someone else, “Oo, could you carry that for me please?”!

This is a much longer post than I planned! I hope it’s useful to somebody. Good luck and best wishes to those people who still have their ‘home alone’ recoveries to come.
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Great recommendations! I read a lot of these but not everything, so hopefully I am not repeating advice already given. A few things that made recovery easier for me in the early days:

• Wear clothing with pockets. I wore (am still wearing!) elastic waist joggers. When I was still using the walker, I could shove quite a bit of stuff—meds, snacks, remotes, water bottles—into my deep, stretchy pockets.
• Buy bottled water. I don’t usually drink bottled water but it made it convenient to drink, it is more portable than a glass of water, and you don’t have to worry about knocking it over and spilling it.
• If you have a polar ice machine for icing, freeze four water bottles for it. I don’t have an ice maker on my fridge so this was a lifesaver. Those frozen water bottles gave me about 4 hours of cold.
• I wasn’t smart enough to do this so I didn’t get to benefit from this little tidbit of advice, but if you need a grabber, buy more than one. I dropped my grabber often and had to MacGyver it off the ground more times than I care to remember.
I was home alone after 1.5 days and as many have said, it's a struggle but doable if you are prepared. Pockets are a must. It's finally sunny and warm here so I wear long dresses. They are easy to get into. I don't know if you can get it there in England but we have zero gravity lawn chairs. They are sort of like a recliner. They tip your body so there are no pressure points. It has saved my life. I live on jello, cherrios cereal and protein drinks. I tried meatloaf and mashed potatoes the other night and quit trying to eat after a couple bites. My girlfriend said to be gracious with yourself and just acknowledge that this is hard but will get better.
Please give your opinion about Stair lift for TKR
Hi everyone, my name is Maria Le 69 years old and live in Charlotte, NC
I am planning to do TKR in October of this year and I live in a two-story house, bedrooms and bathrooms are all upstairs, when I have total knee replacement surgery I want to use Stair lift to get up and down. Will this affect my healing process?

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