Living space, get your home ready. Take it from me, you won’t want to be rearranging your house or making purchases when you arrive home from the hospital. Ideally, your house will be well prepared based on tips from your doctor – and of course my website.
Surgery was the last thing I wanted to do. I put it off for a long time and luckily I kept myself in good health. Eventually, the time came to consult my doctor about knee replacement, and like other endeavors in my life, I wanted to make sure I did everything in my power to be successful. I went to the library, searched on the Internet, and asked friends about what I should expect and how I should prepare.
There is a lot of great information at our fingertips and I learned a lot, however, I really wanted to hear from people about their experiences.
Yes, there were discussion boards but many of them were outdated. Surgery technology doesn’t evolve quite as fast as computers, yet a knee replacement 10 years ago is much less advanced than surgery today.
One of the reasons I decided to create this blog was to share my experience and thoroughly learn about the process when I was preparing for TKR. I hope it answers some of the many questions going through your mind (I had many).
Find Comfort After Knee Replacement Surgery
When you arrive home after surgery, you’ll feel groggy, a little pain (the medication works great), tired from sleepless nights, possibly irritable, and you won’t be walking around well.
To be honest I was happy to leave the hospital and arrive home. I noticed immediately that I’d no longer have nurses available for me 24 hours a day. Luckily my spouse was there to help me out – but she needed sleep too!
We prepared well and had the house in order. Things were tidy, clean, and we moved some furniture to anticipate my limited movement. We planned out meals and kept important things like medicine, ice, and walking poles close by.
Below is a list of things we did (and should have done) to make things more convenient at home after knee replacement surgery. I recommend implementing the items on this list up to a week before because it’s too much to do in a single day. Each item is important in its own way. Feel free to use this list as a checklist as you prepare for the big day!
Related: Best Shoes for Cushion After TKR
#1 Prepare A Recovery Space
Get your house ready and prepare a recovery space for yourself. It may be by a favorite recliner or a comfortable couch where you will spend most of your time. Try to be as close to a bathroom as possible.
Items that should be nearby so that you can reach them include: your phone, remotes, reading material, glasses, tissues, a wastebasket, and a computer.
Good lighting is also essential and low shelves can make life easier while you recover. Remove area rugs, mats and any electrical cords that might be trip hazards.
If you feel that it is necessary, you can install temporary handrails in the bathroom and the in the shower. If you have a two-story house consider setting up a temporary bed downstairs and if you need to climb stairs use the handrail.
#2 De-clutter and Clean
This one is especially important if you live alone or are a “clean freak”. Cleanliness is great and our family is constantly cleaning the house on a weekly basis. When you arrive home from the hospital you won’t feel like cleaning let alone be able to clean.
It will feel great to return to a clean house that’s easy to move around in and find what you need. This means dusting, vacuuming, washing the sheets on the bed and setting out a change of clothes for a few days. You won’t want to think about “what to wear” instead just have the clothes ready.
Make sure you take out the trash as well. If needed you can purchase an extra indoor trashcan to minimize the trips to dump the garbage outside.
#3 Organize a Meal Schedule
Organizing your food and fluids for a few days post-surgery is a wise decision.
In some cases, it’s best to purchase ready-made meals that can be frozen and placed in the oven or microwave before eating.
Of course, you can order, “take away” but that means someone will need to get up from the couch or bed to answer the door. If you live alone this might be tough but with a friend or spouse, it’s an easy decision.
Healthy foods will help with recovery and keep the weight off while you are forced to be sedentary for a week or so. Stock up on healthy snacks like nuts, cheese, fresh veggies, and hummus.
I also ate a lot of jerky to get protein without having to BBQ. Whichever method you choose to prepare your meals, make a list for each day so you don’t run out of food. Visit the grocery store and buy more food than you think you’ll need.
Don’t minimize the value of fluids after surgery. Without movement sometimes it’s easy to forget to drink water but water is extremely important.
1) You’ll have significant fluid loss during surgery.
2) Fluid with electrolytes (like Gatorade) can help retain fluid and the minerals can aid recovery – helping with circulation and skin elasticity (scar recovery).
Flats of Gatorade can be purchased in bulk for a relatively small cost and it should last a week or two.
If you have pets, prepare ahead of time for them too. Make sure they have plenty of food prepared nearby so that it will be easy to feed them. Also, have a self-filling water source available.
#4 Organize Medicine Or Pills For The Week
I’m sure you’ve seen the medicine containers that have the day of the week listed on them. Buy a few of these and fill them up with vitamins or prescription medication. You know what pills and how much so plan in advance.
If you’re like me, you’ll have a number of prescription medications to take right after TKR so be organized. You don’t want to double dose (or forget a dose).
Keep the pills on the counter or next to the couch where you can access them easily.
#5 Do Laundry Before Surgery (Including Bed Sheets)
This comes back to cleanliness. Wash your sheets and all your clothes. Washing is particularly important because you don’t want your wound to become infected – and wearing dirty pants or using an unwashed blanket could harbor those germs.
Plan on not doing laundry for a week or so – it’s just one more thing to get out of the way. You won’t feel like cleaning or doing laundry in the week following surgery.
#6 Give Some Extra Water To The Plants
If you have houseplants and outdoor plants, take some time to water them thoroughly before you go to the hospital. It might seem insignificant, but you work hard to keep your plants and garden looking good.
Don’t let 1-week post-op ruin all you’re hard work. Your plants will appreciate the extra love.
If you have sprinklers, double check the timers to make sure they are working properly because you won’t be outside much to notice if they are being watered.
As is the case with most indoor plants, you’ll be watering these by hand. Take some time to walk around the house and water them before heading to the hospital. Even better, arrange all the plants in one room to make watering easier in the following weeks.
#7 Have Your Cane, Walker, or Walking Poles Ready
Make a point to get walking poles, a cane or a walker. Don’t go to the hospital without a cane, walker, or walking pole waiting ready to use when you come home.
It’s too late if you’re ordering one of these after you get home. You need it ready-to-go as soon as you arrive at your home.
It will be your best friend on visits to the shower or toilet. It will help you get to your favorite recliner and assist you getting to the fridge for a snack.
Most people will be more comfortable with a walker or cane because they can handle more of your body weight. I used walking poles which helped a great deal for balance but due to the poles being taller the amount of pressure I applied to the poles was less (you can really lean on a cane or walker)
#8 Bring the Ice Chest Inside And Have Ice Ready
I always talk about ice – and for good reason. It helps reduce inflammation, promotes recovery, and it helps numb the pain. In my opinion, ice is just as essential as a walking pole or cane.
The only problem is that icing can be a tedious task. I hated getting up from chair or bed to get ice packs and gel wraps from the freezer.
Even worse, our freezer is below the fridge so I have to bend over. We utilized our ice chest to keep ice ready to use on my knee. The ice chest was kept near my recliner or by the bed and I could fill up a bag easily. As the ice machine made ice we transferred it into the cooler.
I encountered a few problems with icing including pillow and blankets getting wet and the hassle of making ice. I’m glad I used the Aircast Cryo Cuff and I wrote about it here on my blog.
#9 Hire Someone To Walk The Dog
If you have a dog or cat you’ll be happy to return home and see their smiles. But if Fido requires a daily walk you won’t be able to do it until you’re further along in recovery.
If you have a neighbor, consider asking them to take your dog for a walk once a day until you’re up and moving around. Better yet, pay the high school kid down the street to do it (employing others is always nice).
If you don’t have pets (like me) it’s one less thing to worry about, however, I do miss having a dog.
#10 Rearrange Furniture
One of the smartest (I get things right sometimes) I did was to rearrange my furniture in preparation for knee replacement surgery. Along with my spouse, I evaluated the family rooms and bedroom and thought about what would be easiest to move around.
Couches and tables
Most people have a favorite chair or favorite side of the bed. Make sure you’re sleeping on the side of the bed closest to the bathroom and remove any tables or chairs in your path – you don’t want anything to trip over.
In the television or dining room, make sure your favorite chair is not positioned in a corner of the room where you have to walk far to reach it. If possible position the chair closer to the kitchen area so there’s less ground to cover if you need food, fluid, or ice.
You’ll find that sleeping horizontally in bed after surgery is no easy feat. Sometimes sleeping in a recliner is the best option early on.
Cover couches with sheets
You’ll be recovering from TKR surgery and you might have ointment on your knee to help with healing. There might be fluid leaking out of your knee as well (only a short time).
In this case, cover your expensive couches or mattresses with sheets that can be washed. Protect your furniture from sweat and from moisture that leaks from your ice packs.
To keep your leg elevated and comfortable, you’ll require all the pillows in the house. Ok, not all the pillows but you’ll need 4-5 pillows (they smash down).
Think about the quality of pillows you have and if they are nice pillows, you might want to buy a leg wedge pillow for after knee replacement.
A leg wedge pillow works much better than a regular pillow and is made to keep your knee elevated. They are relatively inexpensive and will save those down-feather pillows from leg sweat, ice packs, and knee wound fluid.
#11 If You Have a Spouse, Consider Sleeping In the Spare Room or On Recliner
I’m torn on this point because it’s nice to have someone nearby when you’re recovering from knee replacement surgery. Someone in the same room can help you out if something happens or you need help.
A great idea would be to bring a smaller bed in your shared room or a cot where the other person could sleep without being woke up by your constant repositioning. The first few nights will be tough to sleep in a bed.
Or if you prefer, sleep in the spare room or on a recliner. Don’t worry, you’ll improve quickly and after a few days, you’ll be sleeping like a log.
#12 Ask Neighbor To Help With Mail and Paper
If you’re alone it’s important you find someone to help out with your mail and paper. You may not be able to walk to the mailbox or able to pick up the paper in the driveway.
Neighbors are usually helpful and even if you don’t ask them to help out with the mail, it’s good to tell them so they can check on you every couple days. Recovering from TKR on your own is no easy task. I couldn’t have done it without my better half.
#13 Place A Chair Or Stool Near The Shower Or In the Shower and Other Key Areas
Not many people think of this one! If you have a plastic chair or stool that you don’t mind getting wet, it’s good to have it near the shower to sit in during or after bathing.
You might be able to stand for a few minutes in the shower, but you may need to sit while bathing during the first few days after surgery.
In fact, if you want to take things a step farther, you can place a few chairs in random places throughout the house. Place a chair in the kitchen, the bedroom, next to the shower, and maybe in the garage. You never know when you’ll need a break.
#14 Set The Thermostat To A Comfortable Temperature
You won’t want to worry about turning on the heater or turning off the air conditioner. Set it at a comfortable temperature and forget about it for a few days.
If you have a remote keep it close to your favorite chair. In my house, we always turned the a/c or heater off at night, but in this case, I wanted to be as comfortable as possible.
I left it on and didn’t think twice. When I became more mobile (after a week) then I resumed my old habits.
#15 Cancel Other Appointments
As it turned out, I had a dentist appointment the same week as my knee replacement surgery and no one realized it. I had surgery and returned home to rest then got a reminder call that I had a dentist appointment. We called and canceled the appointment but we should have caught it beforehand.
Check your calendar, cancel appointments for 3 weeks after surgery and don’t worry about meetings or other obligations. The focus should be on you, your knee, and getting better.
#16 Ask Your Family To Be Patient With You
Just wanted to add this one. The mood in your house might be different when you’re recovering. People will be concerned about you and you’ll require a lot of help.
Although you’ll be happy to return home, you’ll be in rough shape and your mood won’t be the best. Be patient and hopefully your family will be patient with you. Keep your focus on improving and recovery, and try not to focus on the moment.
In this article we discussed the best ways to prepare your home for knee replacement recovery. You’ll be excited to return home from the hospital but you won’t be in the mood to clean your house or go to the grocery store.
Instead, you should have prepared your home before you left for surgery. Make a list, and do a little each day around the house to prepare.
A few of the most important ways to prepare your house for TKR are:
- Prepare a Living Space
- Meals and Fluids (pre-packaged and lots of water/Gatorade)
- Organize Medicine
- Do Laundry and Set Out Clothes
- Water the Plants
- Get Walking Poles, Cane, or Walker
- Bring the Ice Chest in the House
- Rearrange Furniture
- Find Someone to Walk the Dog
- Place Chairs in Strategic Areas of the House
- Ask Neighbors to Pick Up Mail and Newspapers
- Decide What Bed to Sleep on (Guestroom?)
- Cancel Appointments for 3-4 weeks
- Set the Thermostat and Forget It
There’s much more to remember before you visit the hospital but this is a good place to start. Feel free to use this as a checklist. The first few days will be tough, but hang in there and after a week you should be moving a bit.
I hope this article answered some questions on how to prepare your house for knee replacement surgery. If you’re on your own there will be much more planning but don’t panic, there is a pain-free life after TKR. Visit our blog for more information on knee replacement recovery and my personal experience before, during, and after the procedure. Thanks for reading!