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Caregivers Should Plan for the Worst in Senior Health Care

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As our parents get older, we often find that we are unprepared to meet the growing challenges that come with advanced age— medical problems, health scares, increasing dependence on the assistance of caregivers.

And if you are the primary care giver for an elderly or ailing parent, you’re often required to become an expert on the ups and downs of senior health care in your ongoing efforts to provide them with the care and attention they deserve.

Sometimes, however, knowing isn’t enough.

There are many different situations that can arise where your parents may require a level of skilled nursing care that you are not able to provide and necessitate a stay, or permanent move, into an assisted care setting. One of the most common medical issues is joint replacement surgery— a procedure performed more than 600,000 times a year.

Start Making Plans Now

An invasive procedure like a knee replacement should always be a last resort in senior health care.

There are plenty of ways to treat a bad knee without surgery— physical  therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, supplements, and even steroid injections. However, if you’ve exhausted all other options and your parents still have severe pain or trouble getting around, then it may be time to consider replacement surgery.

But there are a few things you’ll want to know before you have a conversation with your parent and the doctor about scheduling a surgery.

  • Many older adults are frightened of surgery, fearful that something will go wrong in the procedure itself or during recovery.
  • Knee replacement surgery should not be viewed as a quick fix, and it is not without risk of complication.
  • There will be a considerable amount of pain immediately after the surgery, and full recovery will probably take a full year.
  • The surgery will be costly, and some insurance providers won’t cover what they see as an optional procedure.

If your parent and their doctor have decided that surgery is the right move, then it’s time to start making plans for the surgery and the post-op recovery.

Find the Right Doctor

As with any major medical event, finding a doctor with experience and expertise will lower the risk of any major complications to a minimum.

If your parent’s family physician doesn’t refer you to a particular doctor, look for a surgeon that regularly performs the type of surgery your loved one requires—a record of 50 or more of the same procedures a year is a good indication that a surgeon has the experience you’re looking for.

It may also be a good idea to speak with people you know who had had the same procedure to get a feel for what doctors in the area have the highest patient satisfaction.

Be Ready for Post-Surgery Care– Recovery, Rehab, and Everything in Between

To keep the new joint from freezing, rehab typically starts as soon as possible after a surgery.

Within 24 hours, your loved one will be entering a stressful, painful, and strict regimen of rehabilitation that will last months— but it will pay off in the long run.

After the first few weeks, intense pain will lessen to a lingering soreness that needs only an over-the- counter pain reliever, but full recovery will take time.

Of course, setbacks can interrupt or lengthen the rehab and healing process, most of which are easily dealt with. But you’ll want to stay in regular contact with your loved one’s doctor, surgeon, and rehab specialist to monitor their recovery and get ahead of any issues that may arise.

Though recovery will take time, careful planning, patience, and personal attention will help make this difficult situation a little easier— for you and you parents. 

Worried about a loved one?  Download our tipsheet to decide if it's time to talk about senior care.

Bryan Reynolds
February 22, 2014
Bryan Reynolds is the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Bryan is responsible for developing and implementing ERS' digital marketing strategy, and overseeing the website, social media outlets, audio and video content and online advertising. After originally attending The Ohio State University, he graduated from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a Bachelor of fine arts focused on electronic media. Bryan loves to share his passion for technology by assisting older adults with their computer and mobile devices. He has taught several classes within ERS communities as well as at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute run by the University of Cincinnati. He also participates on the Technology Team at ERS to help provide direction. Bryan and his wife Krista currently reside in Lebanon, Ohio with their 5 children.

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