Support after surgery: Resources and advice

If you’ve recently undergone surgery, chances are, you aren’t feeling your best. Everyday things may now prove a struggle, as your body fights to heal and replenish.

It’s important to rest and recuperate post-surgery, and the likelihood is that you’d prefer to do this in the comfort of your home. This can be challenging if you’ve had major surgery, so it’s nice to know there’s help on hand if you need it.

If you’ve recently had or are preparing for an operation, here are a few steps to take to help speed up your recovery, and some helpful resources you can rely on to enable you to stay at home.

Prepare your home for your return

It’s best to prepare your home for your post-surgery return before you come out of hospital. Here are just a few ways you can make sure your home supports you in a speedy and safe recovery:

  • Set up your bed on the ground floor, if possible
  • Ensure you have a bathroom or a portable commode on the same floor and within easy reach
  • Stock up on canned or frozen food, or batch-cook meals that can be frozen and reheated
  • Make sure you have plenty of toilet paper and other personal items you may need during your recovery
  • Put everything you need (plates, cups etc) on a surface between waist and shoulder level, to avoid having to bend over or reach up for anything
  • Make sure you can easily get to a phone – have both a mobile or house phone within reach if possible.

Find more tips for preparing your home for after your surgery here.

You may also want to think about installing temporary adaptations to make your home more accessible. Check out our article about home adaptation help for more information.

Plan your surgery aftercare

Before you go in for your operation, it’s important to consider what sort of care or support you’ll need on returning home. This is important to arrange prior to your surgery, especially if you’re an older person or if you live alone. This can be the difference between staying in hospital or returning to your home comforts sooner.

It’s recommended that you have an adult available to help you for at least 24 hours after having a general anaesthetic, so speak to friends or family to see if someone is available to support you, check in on you or to come to stay with you.

Alternatively, you can look into ‘reablement’. This short-term care is also referred to as intermediate care, or aftercare. Reablement is a type of care that helps you to do daily activities, such as cooking meals and washing.

Most people who receive this type of care do so for one to two weeks, although you can get free, short-term care for a maximum of six weeks – this depends on how soon you are able to cope at home. However, if you need care for longer than six weeks, you may have to pay for it.

Find out more about reablement on the NHS website.

Woman in bed looking out the window after surgery

Before you leave the hospital

Depending on the type of operation you’ve had, you may have an appointment with a physiotherapist after your surgery and before you leave the hospital. They’ll be able to advise you about any exercises you need to carry out to help with your recovery.

You’ll also be given advice about how to care for your wound, any equipment you may require (such as dressings, bandages, crutches and splints), and potentially be given painkillers. Don’t be afraid to ask for things that may help you, such as a wheelchair or a walking frame, too.

Each hospital will have its own policy for sending patients home, but this will also be determined by how quickly your health improves while you’re in hospital, and also what support you’ll need after you return home.

Hospital staff will assess your health and help you to decide if you need further help to recover when you’re ready to leave the hospital. If they think you do, they will arrange care before you leave the hospital, so speak to the person in charge of sending you home to make sure this happens.

The NHS website also recommends asking some questions before you leave hospital, such as:

  • Who should I call if I have any concerns once I’m home?
  • What should I be trying to do on my own – for example, going to the bathroom and getting out of bed?
  • Is there anything I should avoid doing?
  • When can I go back to work?
  • How much pain, bruising or swelling should I expect when I get home?
  • When and where will any stitches be removed?
  • Do I need to return to the hospital or my GP for follow-up? If so, when?

If you are discharged from hospital before care has been arranged, you can contact social services. The hospital will not get involved after you leave.

Find out more about surgery aftercare on the NHS website.

Man in wheelchair exercising with resistance band

Why it’s important to move around after surgery

Research shows the sooner you get out of bed and start walking, eating and drinking after your operation, the shorter your recovery time. While you should only do as much as you feel able to, it’s important to try to move around as soon as possible. This will encourage your blood to flow and your wounds to heal, and will help to build up strength in your muscles.

The NHS website recommends trying to get back into your regular routine as soon as possible. Lying in bed for too long can cause blood to pool in your legs, and this puts you at risk of a blood clot. Doing small leg exercises can help prevent this – these can be as simple as flexing your knees or rotating your feet.

You may also be given special support stockings to wear after surgery to help your blood circulation – your nurse or doctor will explain how you should use these.

Above all, be sure to follow your doctor’s advice on getting active again, and ask any questions if you’re unsure about what to do next.

Above all, be sure to follow your doctor’s advice on getting active again, and ask any questions if you’re unsure about what to do next.

How to speed up recovery and look after yourself after surgery

Your hospital may offer an enhanced recovery programme if you have had major surgery – this rehabilitation programme aims to get you back to full health quickly. But there are also plenty of things you can do to help yourself once you are home.

While your appetite may be limited, try to eat nutritious food that will support your body and energy levels. Protein is great for helping your body to heal, so eat foods like chicken, eggs and other high protein sources. Vitamin C found in fruits is also great, as are foods that contain iron and B12, to help the body form new blood cells. Remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Wear clothing that does not irritate your surgical site. Change the dressing as instructed and look for signs of infection. If itching or other discomfort occurs, contact your doctor.

Finally, make sure that you take all prescribed medications, even if you don’t feel you need them. Even if your wound looks healed, there may be internal healing that has to take place before it is safe to do certain activities. With that in mind, do not drive, lift or perform other restricted movements until it’s definitely safe to do so.

Find more tips to improve your recovery on Verywell Health.

Man sitting on sofa on laptop with arm in sling

Financial support after surgery

The type of financial support available to you post-surgery very much depends on your living situation, if you work, and how long you’re going to be unable to work.

If you were working when you went into hospital, you might be getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) during your recovery. SSP can be paid for 28 weeks if you’re not able to work.

If you were self-employed, you might be able to apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). You may also continue to get Working Tax Credit in addition to SSP or ESA for the first 28 weeks if your income and savings are low.

If you struggle to manage financially when you’re in hospital or when you come out of hospital, Turn2us recommends seeking advice from a benefits adviser. You can find a local adviser using their Find an Adviser tool.

You might also be eligible for a grant or other help from a charitable fund. You can search for grants from charitable funds using the Turn2us Grants Search.

Further reading

Additional support at home

The Priority Services Register (PSR) is a free service, designed to support those who need a little extra help in the event of interruptions to their gas, water or electricity supply.

If you or someone you know has extra communication, access or safety needs, signing up to the PSR will help you to access the best possible services at all times and to feel safe and independent at home.

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