How to Prepare for Recovery at Home
Aging Matters

In a recent article, I addressed how people prepare for a medical event. Another topic that is just as important is how to get ready for a hospital stay and surgery. It may come as a surprise, but if surgery is in your future, start to prepare for recovery well before going to the hospital.

A recent American Geriatrics report tells us that older adults undergo 20% of all surgical treatments during the retirement years. Common ones include joint and knee replacement, and heart surgeries.

For the person preparing for an operation, it's hard to know what one will need, but there are steps to take to plan for a safe and efficient recovery. Listed below are a few practical tips on helping yourself or another older adult make a speedy and easy recovery. Medical studies point to important "prehab" procedures designed to help older adults return to healthy lives following acute surgeries.

  • Prehab activities include wholesome foods and nutrition and light exercise to prepare the body. Talking through your fears and concerns about the procedure will mentally prepare a patient. Choose a friend or family member to discuss apprehensions beforehand and share your hopes for recovery.
  • Prepare for the discharge before you leave to the hospital. Since Medicare reports that 18% of older patients readmit to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. You can avoid this another hospital stay by getting the home ready for your return. Perform home safety modifications before surgery. Install stair lifts wheelchair ramps, shower chairs, grab bars in bathrooms, and adjustable hand-held shower heads.
  • Survey the home for fall risks that may exist, including loose carpeting and electrical cords. Remove them and all tripping hazards. Make sure rugs are snuggly attached to the floor and install bright lights in dark hallways, stairs, and bathrooms.
  • Ask the discharge planner for a list of home care providers, the trained professionals who can make you more comfortable at home. They provide housekeeping and manage medications.
  • Get a list of other helpful resources that can help the recovery process like physical and occupational therapist who can provide personalized recovery plans.
  • Plan for food delivery to your home. Some of the best options are Meals on Wheels, Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, and Check with local chefs who deliver cooked meals.
  • Coordinate a care schedule for those who will help you with simple care tasks when needed.
  • Make sure you have prescription meds filled before going home.
  • Request a care plan, so you know what to do or not do once home.
  • Schedule follow-up visits with your physician.
  • Check with your doctor to see if you qualify for home health care nurse visits.

If you have concerns about leaving the hospital and the transition home, notify your health care team. Ask the nurse for information on how to appeal the decision to discharge.

Carol Marak, aging advocate, columnist, speaker and editor at She earned a Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from USC Davis School of Gerontology and writes about concerns while growing older.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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