Joint replacement surgery is fairly common as people age.
The surgeon removes a damaged or arthritic joint and replaces it with one made of metal or plastic. Ideally, it replicates the joint that is in good physical condition. Traditional surgery requires a larger incision to remove the damaged joint, or you may choose a minimally-invasive technique, which requires a smaller incision.
In this article, we will discuss joint and hip replacement surgery for seniors, and how to orchestrate a smooth hospital-to-home transition.
Joint Replacement Surgery for Seniors
Hip Replacement for Seniors
For hip replacement, the surgeon has to move the muscles to get to the hip joint. Then, the thigh bone is cut to remove the ball. The artificial joint is cemented to the thigh bone. After the damaged cartilage is removed, he fastens the artificial socket to the hipbone. Then, he inserts the artificial ball into the socket and rejoins the muscles before closing the incision.
Osteoarthritis in Seniors
Osteoarthritis, a wearing away of the cartilage between the joints, is a common ailment related to seniors. Because there is no cure, seniors who suffer from an osteoarthritis knee joint have usually gone for a long period of time with the condition before they seek surgery. The doctor may treat the aching with various pain relievers, nutritional supplements, steroidal injections, and physical therapy. If the patient is overweight, he may also suggest that weight loss may be beneficial. If lifestyle changes do not help, the doctor may suggest surgery.
Hospital Discharge for Seniors
The concern is when the patient is released from the hospital. To be discharged, the patient must be able to enter and exit a bed and a chair without too much assistance. He or she must be able to go to and from the bedroom, kitchen and bathroom as well as be able to walk with the aid of crutches or a walker.
The kind of help that is required when a patient leaves the hospital will be provided by either a family member or a home care professional. Joint replacement surgery complications can arise if plans are not in order before leaving the hospital. A hip replacement surgery risk or a knee replacement can both be devastating without the proper subsequent care. That is why physical therapy is imperative to heal completely. A good home care agency can help meet these needs. The same can be said for any artificial joint replacement.
Health Benefits of Surgery
Relief from pain –
It gives the patient more mobility; consequently, he or she is more able to be physically active, which is one of the best ideas for young and old alike.
Functionality restoration –
Work on range of motion exercises in order to regain full mobility of the joint. Stay in touch with the orthopedic surgeon and follow up annually.
Uplifted attitude –
Patients are much happier because they are pain free.
Risks of Surgery for Seniors
- Blood clots
- Nerve damage
- Breathing difficulties
- Negative reaction to the medication or the operation itself
- Falling – Use a walker initially and graduate to a cane.
- Pain – Be diligent with exercises for rehabilitation, but be careful not to allow chronic pain to dominate the exercises. Discuss a pain management protocol with the doctor.
- Lack of Advance Planning – Do not take unnecessary trips around the house. Rather than getting up each time you remember what you need, plan ahead and place needed items within reach.
To avoid some of the risks, a patient may opt for a local anesthesia rather than a general one to reduce the possibility of blood clots or stroke.
Post-Surgery Recovery Tips
- Develop a wholesome routine for exercise.
- Lose weight, if necessary.
- Modify the home to minimize movement.
- Ask the therapist for motion exercises to counteract blood clots.
- Eat healthily.
- Move rather than vegetating in a favorite recliner.
Joint replacement surgery complications may arise when you fail to adhere to the recommendations of the doctor and therapist. Blood clots treatment, especially, is very important for the patient’s wellbeing. Hip replacement surgery risk may or may not be a factor in the procedure. Artificial joint replacement, including knee replacement, is a common procedure, and orthopedists have been doing the technique for many years. That may give you a measure of reassurance.
An individual will know if joint replacement surgery is necessary if:
- Pain relievers no longer help
- Routine undertakings become too difficult
- Inexorable pain is present in the affected joint
- Chronic pain lowers quality of life
Another ailment that is common in seniors is the bunion. A minimally invasive bunionectomy may offer some relief from the pain associated with it, but having surgery on both feet at the same time is ill-advised. For any type of surgery, the risk of blood clots is a possibility. Blood clots treatment can usually keep the blood thin enough so that it will not clot. A blood clot can travel to the heart and cause a heart attack or stroke or death. Procedures, such as the minimally invasive bunionectomy, should be considered carefully. As with any operation, if people can do without the surgery, they should.
Improvements in the surgical technique of joint replacement assumes that artificial joints can last for many years, allowing the senior many years of active living. The individual can resume, for the most part, normal routines, but should be cautious. Ask the therapist when it is safe to resume different activities. Many people decide that the cure is worse than the disease if an osteoarthritis knee joint is the culprit because they have probably heard horror stories of past surgeries that have left patients in worse condition after the surgery. With the new and improved techniques used by surgeons today, that may be an unlikely occurrence.
After the Surgery
After the patient comes home from the hospital, he or she will require assistance with normal household duties. This could be a family member, friend or neighbor. Regardless, whoever is going to assist the patient should have information from the doctor or therapist to follow, especially during the first few weeks. The patient should also have a thorough understanding of what he or she should and should not do in order to have a successful recovery.
An in-home care agency also will be able to meet those needs, giving family members the opportunity to continue with their daily routines. The patient may require transportation to a physical therapist or a rehabilitation center, and the in-home care professional can take care of that, as well as handle household chores. This service is very beneficial to a patient recovering from any kind of joint surgery because he or she will have to recover range of motion movements, and that will take time.
The last years of life should not be fraught with pain and discomfort. Everyone wants to have a wholesome quality of life. So, while it is understandable that seniors may not want to have surgery at their advanced age, they should discuss their fears and concerns with the doctor and do whatever research that will give them the assurances they need. Perhaps the surgery is not for them if they can live comfortably with the condition. It should be the last resort after trying other interventions.
Being able to function and participate with others create a more well-rounded individual. The perceptions and attitudes of the elderly vary significantly from younger people, so the intergenerational give and take helps keep older people relatable. It may come about within the same household or within scenarios where the senior citizen volunteers in places where young people are, such as at a school or in a summer program. The benefit works both ways.