Most people would not think of undertaking a rigorous physical activity, such as running a race or playing competitive tennis, without first taking steps to prepare themselves for the stress and special stamina that the activity will require.
While we certainly don’t think of going into a hospital for an extended stay as a sporting event, it actually can present many of the same physical and mental challenges as a grueling athletic event. As importantly, it’s often possible to do “training” for your hospital stay to ensure that you’re in the best shape to weather whatever your hospital experience and subsequent recuperation may require of you.
Of course, while there are many times when a hospital stay will be unexpected, often a patient will know well in advance that a certain procedure, such as joint replacement surgery, is in his or her future and that an extended hospital stay and subsequent recovery period will have to be faced. Because the prolonged periods of bed rest associated with many surgeries can increase your risk for deep-vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms, it makes excellent sense to take whatever steps you can before entering the hospital to ensure that your risk for these complications will be as low as possible.
Knowing that your are facing a serious medical procedure and hospital stay in the near future can produce a lot of stress. It’s important to take whatever steps you can to minimize this stress.
Start by meeting with your physician and getting your questions answered. A smart move is to write down questions you may have about your surgery, hospital stay and subsequent recovery before that meeting. Take the time to write down the answers he or she gives you to those questions. If you find that you get nervous speaking with your physician, you might ask a family member or a friend to come with you to take notes, allowing you better to ask your questions and concentrate on the answers you are receiving.
Also make sure that you understand the procedures related to your hospital stay. They might include coming in several days early for various lab tests, or avoiding food or drink the night before the surgery. You might also talk to your doctor about whether there is a need for you to donate blood, prior to your surgery, in case it is needed during the procedure. Getting all these questions answered and clearly understood well before your hospital stay can do a great deal to lower your overall stress level.
Get In Shape
When you know you have a hospital stay in your future, talk to your physician to find out what you can do to strengthen your muscles and to promote good circulation prior to your hospitalization. The better shape you’re in going into surgery, the less risk you have for complications and general health problems after the operation.
If your medical condition allows it, your physician may allow some moderate aerobic activity, such as walking, jogging, swimming or cycling, to help strengthen your muscles, lungs and circulatory systems prior to your hospital stay. He or she might also recommend calf, leg and ankle exercises, both before and after surgery, if you will be confined to a bed or chair for an extended period of time.
It is essential, however, that you discuss any exercise program with your physician before undertaking an increased level of physical activity.
Another step for a healthier and stronger you can be to change those factors that are known to compromise your health. If you are overweight, making changes for healthy weight loss (not crash dieting) is one of the smartest moves you can make. While you probably won’t reach your ideal weight before your hospital stay, just losing a few pounds can help you be better prepared to face your upcoming surgery.
Similarly, if you are a smoker, now (or actually, any time) is a great time to give up the habit. You are certainly not going to be allowed to smoke while in the hospital, so use it as an excuse to begin a smoking cessation program now. Your physician can offer advice, program suggestions and even medical help to assist in stopping smoking. Most importantly, you’ll be making a change that will help reduce your health risks in a variety of areas.
Be Prepared For Your Recovery Period
Before your surgery and hospital stay is the time to talk with your physician about what is going to happen after the surgery. Find out if there are any special dietary restrictions, for example, that you may have to follow during your recovery. This is also a good time to discuss any dietary needs you may currently have and whether the hospital will be able to accommodate them during your stay.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about some of the health risks associated with hospital stays and any recovery period where your mobility will be limited for some time. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and very real health risks that are associated with it through pulmonary embolisms (the blood clots that form under DVT and then move through the circulatory system into the lungs) are a risk that anyone who will be bed or chair bound for some time must face.
Ask your physician about preventive measures, such as compression stockings, external compression devices or anticoagulant therapy, that might be used to reduce your DVT risk. There may also be specific exercises that the doctor or hospital recommends to reduce DVT risk during hospitalization.
If you currently have circulatory problems with your legs, ask your doctor about the use of quality compression hosiery prior to your surgery as a means of possibly improving your condition and preventing any worsening of your condition prior to your surgery. Now is also the time to find out if you should be using support stockings
during your recovery period. You’ll probably find most doctors recommend compression hosiery as a means of promoting better circulation while your ability to be physically active is restricted.
Make It a Success
No one look forward to surgery and hospital stays. But you take the time, prior to such events, to ask questions, get answers and do all you can to be in the best possible shape to face the upcoming ordeal, you greatly increase your ability to minimize your stress and maximize your chances for a successful outcome. And isn’t that the best prescription for recovery?