Following heart surgery, an intricate web of care needs arises, from dietary changes to incision care, pain management, swelling minimization, and more. The last thing a senior wants after returning home from such a traumatic event is to face the need for rehospitalization.
Advanced Home Health Care wants to help ensure your senior loved one recovers fully and as quickly as possible from heart surgery, and offers the following tips:
Caring for the Incision
Instructions on how to care for the incision will be given prior to leaving the hospital. Considerations to be aware of include:
- Keep the incision clean and dry.
- The incision can be gently washed (don’t rub) with soap. Do not use creams or lotions on incisions until they are healed.
- Sometimes a swelling or lump appears at the top of the chest incision, and can take several months to disappear.
- If the incision is healing and dry, quick showers (no longer than 10 minutes) are usually allowed. If there are sutures in the chest, stand with back to the shower spray.
- If showers are not available, quick baths (limited to 10 minutes) may be taken.
- Avoid extreme hot or cold water temperatures, as they can cause faintness.
At first, there may be some muscle or incision discomfort in the chest area during activity, but there should not be pain in the chest similar to the pain before surgery.
- A prescription for a pain medication will be given before leaving the hospital.
- Itching, tightness and/or numbness along the incision are normal after surgery.
- If the surgery was bypass surgery, and if vein grafts from the legs were used, there may be more pain in the legs than around the chest incision.
- Walking, daily activities, and time will help to lessen leg discomfort and stiffness.
It is possible to return home with some swelling in the legs and feet, especially if vein grafts were taken from the legs. If there is swelling:
- Place feet up higher than heart level when resting. Try this three times a day for one hour to relieve swelling. (Note: recliners do not adequately elevate feet.)
- Walk daily even if legs are swollen.
- Hospital support hose may be suggested.
- Do not cross legs while lying in bed or sitting. This puts pressure on the veins under the knees and slows blood flow.
The recovery period can be a scary time and you may be tempted to call the doctor over every discomfort or symptom. If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:
- Temperature above 101 degrees F on more than one occasion or chills for 24 hours.
- Excessive oozing, redness, swelling or tenderness at the incision sites.
- Increased fatigue or shortness of breath.
- Abnormal pain or other symptoms not relieved by medications.
- If the sternum feels like it moves, or it pops or cracks with movement.
The professional Iowa home care services of Advanced Home Health Care can help tremendously in keeping your senior loved one on the road to recovery following heart surgery by providing personal care services, helping around the home and with meals to allow him or her to rest and recuperate, running errands, picking up prescriptions, and so much more. Call us at 800-791-7785 to let us know more about how we can help you.