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Helping your Loved One through Surgery

By Dr Jocelyn Lowinger

Helping your loved one prepare for surgery can help them work towards a successful surgery and an effective recovery.


Making the decision to have surgery

Making the decision to have surgery is important to consider carefully. Encourage your loved one to think about all of their options, including surgical procedures or non-surgical treatments such as medical therapy or watchful waiting. Their doctor can answer questions and talk with them about the benefits and drawbacks of each option so that they can make the most informed decision.


Once a hospital date is booked, there are a number of ways you can help support your loved one through surgery.


Financial preparation

Encourage your loved one to talk to his or her specialist, hospital and insurer (if appropriate) about any out-of-pocket charges they might have, any rebates for which they might be eligible and how to claim them.


Medical preparation

Many people go to a pre-admission clinic at the hospital before the procedure date so that the hospital can ensure that they are fit for surgery. This is a good opportunity to enquire about such things as:

  • Information concerning medications before and after the procedure
  • How other health conditions (e.g. asthma, diabetes or heart disease) will be managed in the recovery process
  • Any other questions you or your loved one might have.


If your loved one does not go to a pre-admission clinic, encourage them to talk to their doctors about their concerns. Ensure that they read any information issued by the hospital concerning their admission.


What to pack

Most hospitals will provide a checklist of things that are important to pack, including toiletries, clothing and other necessities. In particular, remember to take:

  • Paperwork, including admission papers, consent forms, Medicare card and health insurance card (if required)
  • Medical information, including letters, test results and x-rays
  • Medications


These items may also need to be taken to the pre-admission clinic.


Going home

Talk to the hospital staff to find out how much help is usually needed once you are back home.


Practical support in household tasks such as meal preparation and laundry is important during the recovery period. You can also help ensure that they are taking medications as directed and on time and provide assistance in getting them to appointments. Encourage them to perform their recommended post-operative exercises to help promote a healthy recovery.


It is also important to provide emotional support to people recovering from surgery as they can be quite emotional during the recovery process. This may leave your loved one feeling down, increasingly irritable or crying more than usual. This will usually only last for a couple of weeks.


Perhaps most importantly, do not forget to look after yourself, both physically and emotionally, so that you will be best placed to support your loved one as they recover. Contact the Carer Advisory Service to find out more about the services that are available for carers.


Jocelyn is a doctor and professional health and medical writer with 20 years’ experience in the health industry. She has extensive experience in a range of approaches to improving the delivery of healthcare such as clinical governance, quality use of medicines, and developing high-quality health communications for consumers and health professionals.