By Gary Simmons
Undergoing surgery at any age puts a huge amount of strain on the body, but older patients in particular will find they need a protracted recovery period following an operation. This is particularly true for people who have had more serious surgeries which significantly impair mobility during recovery, such as total hip replacement (THR) or total knee replacement (TKR).
Deciding where to recover after a drastic surgery, such as joint replacement, can be a difficult decision that requires some serious consideration. Many patients prefer to recover in the comfort of their own homes and do so effectively and safely without incurring any of the extra costs associated with rehabilitation or in-patient facilities. However, many others prefer the convenience of recovering in an environment with a professional staff that has been specifically trained to meet their needs, as this cannot only aid recovery but can also be more reassuring for patients.
There are many factors to consider when choosing where to recover following an operation, such as the nature of your surgery, the availability of people at home to assist you while you recuperate, or whether you have any specific requirements that would be better addressed by professional caregivers.
Here we examine the benefits and limitations of recovery in each setting, which factors influence how well people typically recover in each, and which types of people are better suited for home or inpatient care
Many patients prefer the idea of recovering in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes, and a great number of these do so just as safely and effectively as if they had done so in an inpatient facility. The costs of recovering at home are far lower, but if you do decide to take this option, it is important to make the necessary preparations well in advance.
Benefits of Home Recovery
There are many benefits to recovering at home rather than in rehab, perhaps the most important of which is the positive effect on the mental health of the patient, who is in a comfortable and familiar environment. Scientific studies have found that patients recovering in a suitable home setting had no higher incidences of post-op complications, no significant differences in surgery outcomes, and similar patient satisfaction scores. What’s more, the estimated savings for patients recovering at home is thought to be around $10,000, so home recovery is undoubtedly the most cost effective option in many cases.
Limitations of Home Recovery
The main limitation of a home recovery is the lack of readily available professional assistance, as some individuals are likely to require a higher level of post-op care than others. A consultation with your doctor prior to, and following, surgery is the best way to determine if home recovery is a plausible option for you.
Inpatient or rehabilitation centers are usually recommended for elderly patients who live alone, as they are more likely to get the help and assistance they require in these types of setting. Recovering from a joint replacement surgery typically takes at least a few weeks, during which time patients will likely need assistance with basic mobility, not to mention shopping, cleaning, and transportation. Those who live alone may have more difficulty in finding the help they need, and so can benefit more from having a team of staff on site to assist them in all aspects of the recovery process.
Benefits of Inpatient Recovery
Having a team of specially trained staff on hand to help you with anything you might need is the biggest benefit to opting for inpatient care following a major surgery. An environment where you are professionally assisted in every step of the recovery process does not only expedite your recovery, but can also be incredibly reassuring in a time of difficulty. If you require a high level of care following your operation, you can relax in the knowledge that your every need will be dealt with efficiently and conveniently without putting any undue strain on yourself or your family members.
Limitations of Inpatient Recovery
Having an operation is a distressing experience, and the recovery period following your surgery can be frustrating and uncomfortable. Maintaining a positive mindset at this time is of vital importance in expediting your recovery, as focusing on feeling better and getting back to your normal routine can be a big motivation when it comes to taking care of yourself and regaining your independence.
Many people find this process a lot easier when they are in a familiar setting, where they feel relaxed and at ease, and their friends and family are close at hand. Unfamiliar environments such as inpatient facilities, although comfortable and well equipped, can make the recovery process more difficult for some people.
So, how do you decide which option is most suitable for your specific requirements? Here are the main factors to consider when making plans for your recovery period, so you get the best possible care and recover quickly and effectively without any complications.
Things to Consider
Assistance - The greatest limitation to home recovery is that there is no team of staff on hand to help you out if you need it. This means patients considering this option need to contemplate what kind of help they are likely to need, and who is available to give it to them.
Many people will have willing friends, neighbors and relatives who can lend a hand with shopping, transport and household chores, allowing you to put your feet up and focus on getting better. However, there may still be times when you need extra assistance or a level of professional care that your friends and family are not trained to deliver.
Fortunately, there are many excellent home care services that can make home recovery a great deal easier and more convenient, without putting any undue strain on your loved ones.
However, if you require around the clock care after your operation, it is far more advisable to consider entering an inpatient facility in the weeks following your surgery. There you will have a fully trained team of medical professionals on-site to help you with whatever care or assistance you require, so you can recover comfortably, conveniently and in the reassurance that you are receiving the best possible care.
Suitability of Your Home - If you do undergo a joint replacement surgery, stairs are almost certainly going to be off limits for a few weeks afterward. This is absolutely something to consider before setting your heart on recovering at home.
If you live in an apartment, is there an elevator in your building? If you live in a house with more than one floor, is it possible to live only on the lower level for a few weeks? Although it is possible to have specialist equipment installed in your home to address these issues (such as stairlifts), it may be more convenient and cost effective to opt for inpatient care, as an unsuitable home layout can hinder recovery or even put you at risk of further injury.
Your Specific Needs - Home recovery is not suitable for everyone, and the likely extent of your post-op injuries is perhaps the most important factor to consider before deciding if this is a viable option for you.
Before being discharged from the hospital, patients typically have to be able to perform a number of physical tasks, such as walking with crutches, getting in and out of a chair or bed, and going up and downstairs (if they cannot be avoided) unassisted.
If you are unable to perform the basic physical tasks required for you to recuperate safely in a home setting, your recovery is likely to be far quicker, and more comfortable, in a rehab facility.
The question of whether to opt for inpatient or home recovery following a major operation is a complex one and is affected by many factors, such as the patient’s home environment, the severity of the surgery and the availability of suitable care in each setting.
There are numerous benefits to each option, with some people enjoying the comfort of a home recovery, and others preferring the reassurance of recuperating in an inpatient facility. When deciding which option is right for you, it is important to choose based on which is most likely to suit your specific requirements, to expedite your recovery and to help you get back to your normal daily routine as quickly as possible.