a cat in a surgical cap

Millions of people have surgery every year and nearly all of them have a friend or family member helping them through it. If you’ve been called upon to help someone with a surgery scheduled, here are 9 tips to help you care for them:

9. Know the options

Talk to their doctors about all of their treatment options. Get a second opinion. Look through their chart, with their permission, to make sure nothing is being overlooked. If you do the research to make an informed decision you can know you made the best choice, even if things don’t go as planned.

8. Get instructions

Surgeon’s instructions may not get to you. If you can, go to appointments with the patient and make sure to get instructions for pre- and post-op care. Check with each doctor on the treatment team and call the hospital where the surgery is taking place to make sure you’ve gotten all instructions and to resolve your questions.

7. Get training

Post-op care might include medical care you’re not familiar with. Find out what care you’ll be expected to provide and what training is available.

6. Legal talk

This is the time to make sure their paperwork is in order. Make sure they have a medical and legal power of attorney. Talk over what treatment they want should anything go wrong. It’s critical to have these decisions made ahead of time and document them properly.

5. Get prescriptions ahead of time

Make sure the doctors provide you with prescriptions and information on any equipment you need ahead of time. I learned this one the hard way.

4. Be aware of possible complications

We always hope for the best, but surgery and anesthesia can have a range of complications. Find out about common complications, what signs to look for, and what the treatment would be.

3. Schedule backup

Caregiving can be especially intense after surgery. Set up a care page to schedule respite care, meal delivery, and help with errands. You can set one up for free on Lotsa Helping Hands, Tyze Personal Networks, or another care scheduling tool.

2. Help them follow pre-op instructions

Do what you can to help them get enough sleep, eat healthy, and follow any other instructions they were given. Be sure to let the doctor know if any instructions weren’t followed, as they may need to modify the care they give.

1. Acknowledge your stress

A looming surgery date can create all sorts of nerves. Being an informed patient helps dispel fears by helping you know what to expect, but it’s still important to acknowledge your feelings. This is a great chance to write it out in your journal and check in with friends.

Written by Michelle Daly

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