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Adapting to Life After Major Surgery: A Guide

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When an individual goes through major surgery, no matter what the reason, it can certainly make a significant impact on their life. It’s not easy having to change your routine for weeks or even several months until you have recovered. However, it’s important to accept these changes so that you can get better both mentally and physically.

Here are some tips to help cope with adapting to life after major surgery. 

Follow your post-surgery recovery plan

While you might be tempted to jump right back into how things were before your surgery, it’s extremely important to take things slow. Once you are allowed to go home from the hospital, you’ll be required to follow a post-surgery recovery plan. This will outline pain management and wound care. Alongside this, you may require a caregiver to help assist you during the first few weeks. They’ll help you with things such as cleaning any wounds, dressing, and showering.

Take care of yourself physically

Taking care of yourself is vital after having major surgery in order to prevent infection. Depending on what kind of operation you have had, you’ll need to purchase some products to help with your recovery. For example, an ostomy ring seal can help stop skin irritation in the case of a colostomy, and certain supplements can assist with the healing of a broken bone. Speaking to your doctor will help you determine what items can be of assistance so that you are recovering in the best way possible.

Make necessary changes to your home 

One thing that you need to think about before going into your surgery is whether or not you need to make changes in your home. For example, you may need to move furniture around to prevent slips and floors or even place a bed down on a lower level to avoid stairs. Alongside this, you may need to purchase specific equipment to assist you with your recovery. This could include oxygen tanks, shower seats, and certain foods if you will have dietary restrictions.

Know what complications to look out for 

While most people recover from surgeries with no issues, there are certain complications that you should look out for. If you are suffering from pain, having trouble healing, or even just feeling unwell, it’s crucial to speak to your doctor or carer. This way, they can rule out any dramatic possibilities and work towards correcting any complications (if one has occurred). Some common symptoms that are typical after an operation include restlessness and insomnia, thirst, sore throat (from windpipe during surgery), and nausea.

Have a friend close by to assist you when necessary

If you have reached a point in which you no longer need a carer to assist you, it can still be wise to have a friend or family member close by to help. Having an extra set of hands to get changed or make a cooked meal can make a big difference. Investing in a medical alert system can also be a good idea if there will be times when you are alone.

Check-in with your mental state

Depression, anxiety, and even posttraumatic stress can all occur after having major surgery. The fact is your life has gone through some very big changes, and it’s going to take some time until you get used to things. By monitoring for signs of depression, you can review your mental state and seek help when needed. It’s important to remember that you are never alone, and there are many support services out there waiting for you.

Find activities to keep you occupied 

Depending on your recovery’s expected length, it can be extremely wise to find some activities to keep you occupied. While you might want to stay in bed watching television all day, it can worsen your insomnia and affect your mental health. Activities such as drawing, jigsaw puzzles, or crosswords are all great ways to keep your mind active and healthy.

Prepare for your return to work

Finally, one thing that you need to prepare for after your surgery is your return to work. This can be extremely difficult, especially if you have now adapted to your new routine. It’s important to remember to take things slow and not overexert yourself. While you might be nervous about getting back out there again, you will be able to adjust yourself one step at a time.

By following the above guide, you can recover and adapt to the new changes after your major surgery. It might take a bit of work, but you’ll be on your way to a speedy recovery in no time.

Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.

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