Elderly woman holding her knee

Elderly Recovery from Knee Replacement

According to Arthritis Research UK, nearly nine million people suffer from osteoarthritis, a commonly experienced disease worldwide that weakens joints and muscles. This disease is especially common for older adults since as seniors age, their bodies become more susceptible to such conditions. If your elderly loved one is among those suffering from osteoarthritis, you may be considering or already have turned to knee replacement surgery as a way of dealing with pain and lack of mobility. This article will tell you all you need to know about knee replacement surgeries, recovery strategies, timeline, and more. 

The elderly have several options when it comes to knee replacement surgeries. They can consult their doctor and see which of these are most viable. Often, knee replacement surgeries are necessary when seniors battle with swelling and stiffness, have trouble sleeping, and cannot walk without severe pain. Whether your senior is dealing with partial or total knee replacement surgeries, they both require quite a lot of preparation and research beforehand so that caregivers and patients are ready for the post-surgery period. It’s extremely important that seniors and their loved ones know how to handle the recovery process so that they can prevent complications or infections. 

Recovery Timeline

Most sources suggest that patients will need at least 12 weeks to recover from their surgeries, though full recovery can take up to a year or longer. Here is a detailed outline of what recovery can look like. 

1-3 weeks

In the first three weeks, after patients are discharged from the hospital, caregivers can expect that seniors should be able to stand and sit, along with walking while using some form of assistance such as a walker and crutches. Still, they will need help with doctor’s appointments, exercise, showering, dressing, medication and treatment, and meal preparation and other everyday errands. 

4-6 weeks

During the weeks to follow – specifically from week four to six after the surgery – there should be visible improvements. Caregivers should notice that seniors are able to bend their knee a bit more and have more strength to partake in everyday activities. During this time, your physical therapist or other medical professionals who are in your team of carers may ask that seniors increase their exercise difficulty and amount. They may also suggest that seniors try to work on walking without a crutch or other assistance. 

Four to six weeks after the surgery, seniors may express willingness to cook, go outside, meet with other relatives, clearn, etc. They will not be able to make a full comeback though and will need you to drive them, help them with some exercises, pick up groceries and perform other physically challenging tasks. 

7 – 12 weeks 

In the final stretch – seven to twelve weeks after the surgery – patients may say that they are ready to go back to the same kind of lifestyle they had before the knee replacement surgery. They may be able to walk on their own and perform tasks that are a bit more demanding. During these final weeks of initial recovery, it is important for seniors and caregivers to keep up with the exercise regimen and other rehab activities prescribed by your health team. You should also ensure that patients visit medical professionals regularly and follow their advice. 

How do you ensure a smooth recovery? 

Here, we would like to share some tips with you for making sure that your senior’s recovery is smooth and as easy as possible. During the first couple of weeks – as mentioned before – seniors will have to be assisted in a lot of activities, including standing and walking. During this time, doctors will advise that seniors use some sort of assistance to balance. After they are ready to walk independently, seniors can use a cane or nothing at all. To make the recovery process as painless as possible and make sure that you hit all the goalposts, here are some helpful suggestions: 

Be patient 

Both you and your senior need to be patient when it comes to the recovery process. Most sources say that after the surgery, seniors will feel extremely tired. After all, knee replacement surgeries are a big undertaking and a large part of the patient’s body will be affected. Seniors will feel sore and weak, struggling or requiring extra strength for moving and other activities. It’s vital that neither caregiver nor senior rushes the recovery process. 

There are some tasks that can take several months to get back to and everyone’s recovery timeline will be a bit different. Remember that this is normal and keep in close contact with your doctor or other healthcare professionals to ensure that your seniors are meeting the required recovery guideposts and not pushing the senior beyond their limits. 

Follow-up with your doctor

If you remember any of the tips in this article, let it be this one. It’s extremely important for the recovery process that seniors take their follow-ups seriously. Speaking with your doctor and doing regular check-ups will help both caregivers and seniors to make sure that the healing process is going along the way it should be. Doctors will also give you a lot of helpful advice on what to do during each part of the senior’s recovery. They can help you understand which activities are good for seniors to do and which ones you need to modify. 

If seniors are not healing as quickly as they should be, doctors can also modify their treatment plan. Doctors will also be able to prevent infections and give answers to any of your questions or deal with any concerns you may have. 

Visit a physiotherapist

It is highly recommended that seniors find a physiotherapist and attend physical therapy sessions, at least during the first couple of weeks after the surgery. There are some free programs that your hospital or residential communities may offer, so we suggest that you research these. You can also temporarily sign your senior up for services that a local care home provides. 

Eat Well

Another important aspect of the recovery process is the patient’s diet. Eating healthy will give seniors the proper nutrients and energy that they need to deal with the post-surgery weakness. Though this may be more difficult to do than to say, try your best to ensure that your senior eats healthy. Being their caregiver, you can take on grocery shopping and meal prep, making things a bit easier on the senior. 

Exercise

Healthcare professionals will most likely suggest that your elderly loved one try light exercises during the recovery period. After being released from the hospital, they may recommend that your senior does some stretches to strengthen the affected joints. You can also reach out to your physiotherapist and ask them for advice on what sort of exercises are acceptable for someone recovering from a knee replacement surgery. Either way, before your senior starts exercising, make sure that you double check everything with your doctor because some exercises can lead to further irritation and pain. 

Though it is important that you do not push your senior past their abilities, it’s also vital that you keep them moving. Recovery can be aided by going for walks together, doing light chores, cooking, following prescribed exercises, etc. You can see simple exercises that seniors can perform on our website. 

Stay safe

Though we encourage you to follow all of the tips above, make sure that you do these things while putting safety first. If your senior falls or hurts themselves in another way, this can lead to a significant lengthening of their recovery period. Make sure that their living space is set up in a way that ensures the senior’s safety. This can be done by installing safety bars in the shower, clearing the entire home from clutter, using a raised toilet seat, arranging furniture in a more comfortable way, and removing anything that can cause the patient to slip. 

Manage pain and infection

After your senior is discharged from the hospital, they will most likely have to follow a medication regimen to ensure that their pain is managed and you avoid any infections. You – as the caregiver – can ensure that they take the proper medications at the proper time, track their progress, note if you see any significant changes. You can help manage the senior’s pain by making sure that they move regularly and follow the other tips mentioned in this article. As a caregiver, you can also remind them to take their medication, pick up their prescriptions, and watch out for any signs of an infection. 

Conclusion

If your elderly loved one has undergone or is planning to undergo a knee replacement surgery, it is important that you are prepared for the recovery period. We hope that this article has provided you with helpful information and tips on how to ensure that your loved one’s recovery process is as smooth and painless as possible. 

Resources:

  1. Activities after Knee Replacement, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, orthoinfo.aaos.org
  2. Knee Replacement, National Health Service, www.nhs.uk

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