Outpatient surgery is about as commonplace as a doctor’s appointment these days. I have actually heard people say, “Oh, my surgery is no big deal, it’s just outpatient.”
Think again. Outpatient though it may be, there are still things you should keep in mind.
It is important to learn as much as possible about your surgery in advance. While hospital staff try to include everything you need to know, sometimes things can be missed or, more likely, you may forget some pieces of information by surgery time. There is a lot to remember.
It is a good idea to have a family member or friend go to the appointment with you to take notes. It is hard to listen and write at the same time.
Here are some questions that you should ask your doctor:
• Are there any medicines or supplies that I will need to have at home after the surgery?
• Are there any medicines I should stop taking before the surgery?
• Are there things I won’t be able to do, like climb stairs and if so, for how long?
• Who should I call if I have questions or problems after the surgery?
• Will I need someone to help me at home? Will Medicare cover in-home health care if I need it?
• Will I need to make changes at home like getting a portable toilet or putting a bed in the living room?
• What symptoms should I watch for and report?
• How long will it take to recover from surgery?
• How much pain is there after this type of surgery? How is it treated?
Then there are things to think about for yourself:
• If you have pets, and you are unexpectedly admitted to the hospital after your surgery, make sure you have someone who can care for them.
• Make sure you have enough medicine on hand so you will not have to go to the store — this goes for groceries as well.
• If you are the caregiver of an elderly person, make arrangements for that person so his or her care is continuous.
The day of surgery needs some forethought too.
Wear soft, loose fitting clothes that are comfortable and easy to slip on and off and don’t wear any jewelry or bring money or other valuables with you. It is safer to leave everything at home.
Do bring your storage cases for dentures, hearing aids and the like. The hospital staff will see to it that these items will be kept safe while you are having your surgery.
Arrange for a ride home after your procedure. Because of the anesthesia, you won’t able to drive yourself.
Remember, while every effort will be made to keep your surgery on schedule, emergencies happen which can affect your timing. Bring a book or something to do in case you need to wait.
And lastly be very sure, before you leave the hospital, that you have clear and concise directions for any medications that you or your loved one will need. It’s easy to just walk away with scribbled notes and prescriptions when you are eager to get home but resist the urge. You probably think that you’ll be able to make sense of it all later but check over the notes before you leave because it is much easier to straighten out any medication confusion before you head home than after the fact.
No one likes to think of having surgery, but a little forethought can at least relieve some anxiety.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. E-mail Higgins Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free (800) 432-7812, e-mail email@example.com or log on EAAA.org.