Especially for those undergoing spinal fusion or other forms of more extensive back surgery, it is beneficial to arrange the home to make it as safe and convenient as possible after surgery. The surgeon will often recommend that the patient avoid bending over or lifting heavy objects for several weeks or months following back surgery.
Here are several practical guidelines to help ease the transition home following back surgery:
A toilet riser comes in handy for people who anticipate difficulty getting on or off the toilet in the weeks after surgery. It is a circular piece of molded plastic that is about 8 inches high and fits securely on top of the existing toilet seat. They are available from rehab supply stores and with a prescription, may be covered by insurance.
Common items within easy reach
Place frequently used objects in a convenient location within easy reach. For example, it may be beneficial to have frequently used items such as dishes and pans in upper cabinets to avoid having to bend over to reach for them in the lower cabinets. Some patients find it easiest to have a stack of paper plates and cups right on the counter, which also helps to eliminate bending over to do the dishes in the sink or loading/unloading the dishwasher.
On a similar note, many patients find it helpful to put all toiletries, clothes and other frequently used items on shelves or countertops within easy reach.
Reacher or grabber
A favorite item among patients who are restricted from bending after surgery is a “reacher” or “grabber”. There are several styles but all are light weight, hand held devices with a grabber on the end. They are usually 2-3 feet long and can pick up a pencil, sock, napkin, etc. quite easily. Stores that sell rehab equipment stock them, but they are also available (and may be lower cost) from larger department stores, home-improvement stores, and pharmacies.
To avoid lengthy food preparation, some patients find it helpful to stock their freezer and cupboards with prepared meals and other healthy convenience foods that will save them time and energy after surgery.
Slip on shoes
If bending needs to be avoided, buying slip-on shoes will allow patients to avoid having to bend down to tie shoes.
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As a general rule, for back surgeries that don’t involve a fusion, re-establishing a normal range of motion can accelerate the healing process, so using objects such as a grabber to avoid bending and employing other techniques to avoid movement may be detrimental. Strategies that help eliminate bending are more appropriate for fusion surgeries.
Depending on the type of spine surgery, it may be a good idea for the patient to plan to have someone stay over or stop in frequently at least the first few days after coming home from the hospital. Many patients will need help with physical cares, light chores, errands and meal preparation. For individuals who will require more extensive assistance, home health care services can be ordered by the physician and easily arranged before surgery or during the hospital stay.