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Plan Ahead for Your Recovery if You're Having Surgery.

Millions of older adults undergo surgical procedures annually, and we're looking at the two main approaches--open surgery and minimally invasive (or "keyhole") surgery--in this month's issue. If you're having surgery in the near future, it's likely that countless questions about the procedure and the recovery period are racing through your mind. I've undergone surgery myself, and even with my medical background I felt anxious about it. What helped alleviate my concern was getting informed about what to expect in the recovery period, and what I could do to help my recuperation.

Discuss with your doctor how the surgery might affect your immediate health and lifestyle, what recovery period is typical, and whether there are there any activities you won't be able to do afterwards (for example, can you safely bathe or drive?). Also ask what you need to stay alert for in terms of recovery "red flags" that may indicate you are developing a postoperative infection. Unfortunately older adults are at greater risk for these, and the risk is heightened if you have other health issues, smoke, are overweight or obese, are having abdominal surgery, and/or your surgery lasts two hours or more. Signs you may have an infection include a fever, and new redness and pain in your surgical incision after it had appeared to be healing.

Be sure to inform your doctor about any other health issues you have, and provide him or her with a list of any drugs you may be taking. The list should include nutritional supplements, as some (including ginkgo, ginseng, garlic and ginger) may cause increased bleeding. It's possible certain medications in your regimen may be temporarily suspended prior to your surgery, and that your doctor may prescribe other drugs to help guard against problems during and after the operation. If you are given new medications, be sure you know how and when to take them.

It also is important to think about help and support after your surgery. It's possible you may be advised to spend some time in a care facility immediately afterwards, but if you intend recovering at home, think about the practicalities involved and find solutions in advance of your operation. If your bedroom is upstairs, consider setting up a bed on the first floor, and make sure everything you might need during the day is easily accessible. Store food on countertops so that you won't have to reach or climb for it, and remove any tripping hazards. Install grab bars in your bathroom.

If you live alone and have no family or friends who can help take care of you after your surgery, speak with a social worker at the hospital. It is possible you may be eligible for the Medicare home care benefit, which can provide a nurse to care for your surgical incision, manage your medications, and refer you for physical therapy.

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) is a good source of information on any questions you may have about upcoming surgery--visit to download pamphlets.

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Title Annotation:FROM THE EDITOR
Author:Leipzig, Rosanne M.
Publication:Focus on Healthy Aging
Date:Jul 1, 2018
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