4 Handy Things To Know Before Helping Your Elderly Parent Recover From Shoulder Replacement Surgery

After decades of lifting, pushing, pulling, and general hard work, it's not unusual for a senior to experience serious shoulder problems from arthritis, injuries, and degeneration related to aging. In many cases, shoulder replacement surgery is the best option to reduce the pain and help your elderly parent regain full use of his or her arm. Although not as common as knee and hip replacement surgeries, over 53,000 shoulder joint replacements occur in the United States each year. If you're in a position to be the caregiver during the post-surgery recovery period, your parent won't need to go to a short stay rehabilitation facility. But when you take on that role, advance planning is necessary to provide great support as your loved one heals and becomes independently active again.

Time Management

Your parent's post-surgery stay in the hospital is likely to only be a couple of days. When the orthopedic surgeon is satisfied that incision site is healing properly and the patient is stable, your parent will be released. This is when you'll go on full-time duty. You'll need help with walking, getting situated in a comfortable chair, and climbing into bed. Your parent's sense of balance will be off kilter because one arm and shoulder is totally immobilized in a brace and sling. After a week or so, when you're confident they can navigate on their own, you'll both be comfortable if you need to leave the house for a couple hours, but make sure there's always a phone handy so your parent can call if they need your help sooner.

Proper Nourishment

You'll need to take charge of everything to do with food – cooking, serving, and cleaning up. Make sure you have sufficient groceries on hand before your parent goes home as you won't want to leave them alone while you go shopping. Focus on light meals that are big on flavor because there won't be a lot of activity going on to burn off the calories during recovery.

Ice Cubes

You'll need to have access to lots and lots of ice cubes. The surgery incision site must be kept cool to keep inflammation at a minimum, and that's done with ice packs. In many cases, the hospital will send you home with a cold water ice therapy machine. It circulates iced water through a tube embedded in a pad that covers the shoulder, but you'll need to fill the machine with ice and water several times a day. Fill the freezer with bags of ice before your parent comes home and locate a place where you can dash to and from quickly to buy more ice, or arrange to have someone bring more bags on a regular basis.

Personal Care and Hygiene

Getting dressed, keeping clean, and maintaining modesty can be big concerns for your elderly parent while recovering from shoulder surgery. To make these processes easier, it might be necessary to do a little shopping before the operation. Shirts and tops that button or zip up the front are needed as they won't be able to raise their arm for items that slip over the head. Elastic-waist warm-up trousers, shorts, and skirts also make dressing easier. Your help will be needed at first to undo and re-attach the arm brace and sling so that they can maneuver, but within a couple of weeks they'll be able to manage that themselves. Your parent will be able to take a shower as the incision will be covered with a waterproof membrane. They will likely need help drying their back, arms, and legs afterward. You will also need to help by putting on socks and tying shoelaces as they won't be able to do that while they only have use of one arm.

Plan to take your parent to follow-up appointments with the orthopedist. Attend the physical therapy sessions so that you can help with exercises and be a cheerleader as they regain strength and achieve full, pain-free use of their arm again. Visit a clinic like Gotham City Orthopedics for more information.