Knee Replacement is scary, but you can do it, especially if you are prepared! After you and your doctor have decided you need your knee replaced, it’s time to make preparations.
In my experience, I was transferred to the nursing home on a Friday. This meant their visiting physical therapist would not evaluate me until Monday. Because of that, I declined from a 90-degree bend in my new knee to a 70-degree bend, in just three days. All my rehab in the hospital had just gone down the drain, and I had to start all over again. So that you know, you will be working towards a 125-degree bend after the Knee Replacement Surgery.
First and foremost, check with your insurance company to make sure which benefits you have. Find out precisely how long they will allow you to stay in the hospital. Many insurance companies will make you leave on the fourth day after the operation, and they may send you to a “rehabilitation facility,” which in their jargon could mean a nursing home.
It is essential to know how the insurance company will deal with you before, during, and after the knee surgery.
Call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask the following questions:
Find out with whom you are speaking, their position, and their extension number.
I want to know what benefits I have for a Total Knee Replacement.
Do I have skilled Physical Therapy benefits in the hospital where the surgery takes place for the Knee Replacement? Yes or No? If yes, what are they?
Do I have Rehabilitation benefits for the Knee Replacement? Yes or No? If yes, what are they? Where may I go for the services?
Do I have Rehabilitation equipment and supplies covered for the Knee Replacement? Yes or No? If yes, what are they? Is there a co-pay?
Do I have ongoing outpatient therapy benefits after the Knee Replacement? Yes or No? If yes, what are they? Where may I go for services?
Do I have home therapy benefits after the Knee Replacement? Yes or No? If yes, what are they? Home Health agencies may I use after the Knee Replacement?
To maintain your independence at home, after your Knee Replacement Surgery, buy a bar refrigerator that will go on a table next to your bed. This will be invaluable when you do come home. Stock it with water, sodas, milk, Jell-O’s, and individual pudding snacks. Fresh fruit is also a tasty snack. Purchase the 2 oz boxes of cereals and stack them beside the refrigerator. Put a large plastic drinking cup next to the bed and weigh it with a golf ball, which will hold plastic utensils, knives, forks, and spoons (the golf ball keeps it from tipping over). Use a plastic bowl for the cereal and throw it away when you’re done. Bumblebee Tuna makes an individual lunch kit that comes pre-made with crackers and a little wooden spoon.
These little things will help you feel independent by being able to get breakfast, snacks, and an occasional lunch on your own. It also gives your caregiver a little break. I found that there were some days that I had no appetite due to pain and medication, so I kept a stock of Slim Fast or Boost in the refrigerator for essential nutrition.
If you smoke, now is the time to stop or at least cut-down. Smoking constricts your blood vessels, which is not a good thing when you’re going in for major surgery. If you tend to be a little overweight, try to lose a few pounds. A low, less weight on a new knee joint means a little less pain. Okay, no more preaching.
Line up the people that will be helping you after your Knee Replacement Surgery and, and you will need them. If you can afford it, hire someone to come in for 4-6 hours a day. They will help you get out of bed, shower, and get dressed. They prepare your meals, help you with your therapy exercises, keep you company, and give your spouse or significant other, a break. Interview them now and let them know what your timing is. Your church would be an excellent place to find someone, or if you live near a retirement community, many times they have companions of their own that are looking for some extra income.
This isn’t essential, but I think wise. Donate two pints of your blood in case of an emergency. Make sure that this is completed at least a week before the surgery. You must donate one pint per week. If you are taking antibiotics, wait five days before giving blood. The blood bank will provide you with a card with the unit number on it that you present upon admission to the hospital.
You will need Grab Bars put into your shower/tub (don’t use your towel bars). Put them in before you have the surgery, installation is not that difficult, and you will be grateful for the assistance over the next couple of months. This is a significant safety issue. The balance will be tough after your Knee Replacement Surgery, especially the first couple of weeks. It would help if you bought a shower stool so you can sit while bathing. Your doctor may supply you with a cast protector to keep your new knee dry.
Purchase three rubber mats, one for in the shower/tub, and the other two to be lined up parallel outside the shower/tub. You do not want to slip on a wet bathroom floor.
There is a product, a disposable body washes cloth, available that you can use to bathe in your bed. They can be placed in the microwave to be heated up, and you can use them on days that you can’t face the shower. They come in packs of eight. While they say to use all eight for one bathing, I found that four were enough. Just close the remaining four and use save them for the next time.
You will need a pair of slippers that cover the entire foot with a non-skid bottom, and flip flops are just too dangerous. You will also need a couple of lace-up shoes for stability.
Some other items that you may need are:
TV with Remote Control
A night light for the bathroom
Bedside Commode/Toilet paper
Dental floss, toothbrush, toothpaste
Bell to ring for assistance
Another suggestion is to clear all the pathways in your home. Scatter rugs and cords are often the cause of falls, so are pillows and magazines. Remove articles from around the bed and chairs. Keep your pets under control. A dozing cat or a playful puppy in the wrong area can cause accidents.
Please see my other article on what you need to know about the day of knee replacement surgery and your rehabilitation.