Tips for Supporting a Loved One After 
Knee- or Hip-Replacement Surgery

There is a lot that goes into preparing for and recovering from knee- or hip-replacement surgery. Your loved one may need some assistance from you, especially in the days immediately after leaving the hospital. Here are a few things that you can do to help keep them safe at home and ensure their recovery is as smooth as possible.

How you can help prepare your loved one for knee- or hip-replacement surgery

Before knee- or hip-replacement surgery

  • Remind them to wear comfortable clothing to the hospital and to pack more loose-fitting clothing to make it easy to dress when discharged from the hospital.
  • Ensure they have essential personal care items like a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and wet wipes for their hospital stay.
  • Remind them to fill any necessary prescriptions before going to the hospital so they will have them when they return home, especially their blood thinner medicine to prevent clots.
  • Help your loved one make arrangements for extended-care or rehabilitation facilities or home visits if their healthcare professional says it’s necessary after surgery.
  • It may also help you to review the content on this site to deepen your understanding of the process from your loved one’s point of view.

Preparing the home

  • Arrange furniture so they will be able to move freely around the home.
  • Remove trip hazards like area rugs and extension cords.
  • If your loved one has a small pet like a cat or dog, consider boarding the pet elsewhere so Fluffy or Fido won’t be underfoot during the recovery period.

Stocking essentials

  • Ensure anything your loved one needs on a daily basis can be reached without bending, reaching, or using a stepladder.
  • Stock the bathroom and kitchen with essentials to limit the need for shopping trips during recovery.

Physical assistance

  • Be aware of your own physical abilities or limitations. During the first few days after surgery, your loved one may need assistance using the bathroom, getting in and out of the shower or bathtub, or getting dressed.

Encourage a positive outlook

  • Recovery is hard. Your loved one may sometimes feel like surgery was a mistake or that it made their condition worse. Acknowledge that these feelings are common and that you are there for them, but remind them how important it is to stick with their rehab and physical therapy. Following the plan laid out by their healthcare professional will allow them to get the best results possible from their surgery.

Understand the blood-clot risks

After surgery, your loved one will likely be prescribed a blood thinner to reduce their risk of getting a blood clot. A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in the leg which could break free and block a vein in the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE). DVT and PE can be life threatening, so it’s important to be familiar with the symptoms of both DVT and PE, and call a healthcare professional right away if you notice any of these symptoms in your loved one.

Symptoms of DVT

  • Swelling of the leg or affected area
  • Pain or tenderness at rest or when standing or walking
  • Skin that is warm to the touch
  • Skin that is red or discolored

Symptoms of PE

  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest pain under the rib cage that may worsen with deep breathing
  • Coughing or coughing up blood
  • A rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Feeling lightheaded or passing out