Prepare Your Home (and Your Mind) For Hip Replacement

Occupational Therapy and Preparing for Hip Surgery

Home after Hip Surgery
Prepare Your Home for Hip Surgery. Getty Images

If you have a hip replacement scheduled there are several tasks you can do beforehand to prepare your home (and your mind) for your recovery.

Following surgery you will likely be interviewed by an occupational therapist and physical therapist about your home environment. They will seek to understand the challenges you will face upon your arrival home in order to help you safely prepare for them.

Taking inventory of your home setup will help you advocate for your needs following hip replacement.

You may even want to consider printing out this list, jotting down answers, and checking off safety measures you have taken. Bring your notes with you to the hospital to make the interview process more efficient.

A Quick Note on Hip Precautions

If you are having a hip replacement surgery, you will have some doctor-recommended movement restrictions for which the following tips account: you should not bend forward so that your shoulders are lower than your hips (past 90 degrees) or sit with your knees above your hips, as these positions put too much pressure on your new hip.

Timeline

Recovery time varies from person to person, but for the sake of planning, you can estimate about 4-6 weeks before you can walk around your house without a walker. Plan for about a month before you can return to driving; your doctor will clear you for this activity. It generally takes about six months before you have achieved full recovery.

Who Will Be Around to Help?

The amount of help you will have available will impact your planning and will be a factor in how soon you can safely return home, whether you may benefit from a stay at a rehabilitation center and whether home health therapy will be right for you.

  • Who will drive you to appointments?
  • Who can run errands for you?
  • Who will be available to help with meal preparation?
  • Who will be available to help with basic cares such as helping with your compressions socks?

Where Will You Spend Your Time?

What parts of your home will you need to access in your first weeks following surgery?  Focus your preparation efforts on these areas.

If you have a bedroom on the first floor, consider temporarily making it your primary bedroom, if it is not already. If you must go up a staircase, make arrangements to limit to limit the trip to one time per day.

A cozy place to rest during the day cannot be underestimated. If it is a chair, ideally it will be sturdy enough so you can use the arms to push up from when you stand. If it is a couch, make sure it is not so low that your knees are above your waist when sitting, as this would break the aforementioned restrictions.

Preparing Your Home For A Walker

You will likely need a walker for your return home. To assess whether a walker will be able to fit in bathrooms etc., you can grab a tape measure and set it to 30 inches to give a general idea of the width you will need (the average walker is 24-28 inches).

The depth of standard walker is usually about 20 inches so if you have a tight walkway you can measure whether side stepping through is an option.

If there are narrow spaces to navigate, let your physical therapist know and she can advise you on the best way to do so.

A walker also adds 4 more feet to get caught on something, so remove throw rugs and any other tripping hazards.

Preparing Your Kitchen

In addition to planning what you will eat, it will help to plan the logistics of preparing and sitting down for a meal. You do not want there to be too much reaching or bending involved.

  • Move commonly used items from cupboards that require you to stand on tiptoes
  • Move items from lower cupboards that require you to bend beyond 90 degrees
  • Place commonly used items on the counters
  • Move items you will need from deep freezers in basements and garages to your main freezer
  • If you have a dining chair with arms, plan to use it to help push off into a standing position

Preparing Your Bathroom

After figuring out which bathroom(s) you will be using and removing the throw rugs, there a couple more tasks to do.

When you sit on your toilet are your knees above your hips? If so your toilet seat is too low. Your occupational therapist will likely recommend you purchase or borrow a raised toilet seat.

The shower is where I most carefully advise patients on safety, due to the related fall risks. There are several options available to you to make the shower safer.

Whether you have a tub or a walk-in shower, you can consider a shower seat. If in doubt, ask your occupational therapist which seat option is right for you.

If you have a tub-shower, there is good chance that your occupational therapist will actually have you practice entering one, as this is one of the trickiest moves after surgery. If you have grab bars, note where they are, as your occupational therapist will want to mimic your home setup as closely as possible.

Please note that towel racks and soap trays do not count as grab bars, as they are not designed to hold your weight. If you don’t have grab bars, this might be a good time to install them.

Preparing Your Bedroom

One of the first things you will want to do on your return home is likely to head to bed for a nap! Make sure your bedroom is ready for this and sequential naps.

  • Make your clothes accessible
  • Make sure you don’t have to step on tiptoe to reach anything in the back of your closet
  • Take anything you need out of the bottom drawer
  • If you are nervous about having a tall bed, note the height and ask your PT or OT to help you practice getting in and out

Pets

The companionship of your pet may be an important dimension to your healing process, but you also want to make sure that your little furball is well cared for during the recovery process. This means that he/she may need to hang out with someone else during the first days home. Or arrange for someone to do the feeding and walking.

Items You May Want to Borrow/Buy

Throughout this article, I mentioned several items that you may want to make your home safer. Here are several other items that you may want to preemptively purchase or borrow. If you chose to wait, your occupational therapist can advise you as to which items will be necessary.

  • Reacher
  • Shower seat
  • Long-handled sponge for bathing
  • Long-handled shoe horn
  • Sock-Aid
  • Toilet riser/commode
  • Walker
  • Walker bag or basket
  • Some good leisure items! Is there a good book, a TV series, a craft you’ve been wanting to undertake?

If this article as sparked some questions or concerns about your return home, jot them down, put the list in your hospital bag and share that list with your occupational therapist.

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