How can you help a friend or family member after total joint surgery?

The thought of Total Joint Surgery can seem overwhelming at first. Coastal Orthopedics is working hard to make this process much easier, even to the point where some of these procedures are done as outpatient surgeries. Even though this process is becoming easier, it’s still helpful to have one or two people around to help the patient post operation. Here are a few tips on how you can better help a total joint patient after surgery:


There are always going to be tips, tricks, and suggestions from others, but the most important person to listen to is the patient and the instructions given by their physician. Ask them if they are comfortable, if they need anything, if they would like something before you give it to them – all of these things help the patient feel less overwhelmed and more in control of the situation. If they tell you that they are experiencing any type of medical symptoms (such as severe nausea, active bleeding, fever higher than 101.5, or changes in circulation) contact their physician immediately. You should keep the care team’s contact information in an easily accessible place. If you are not the patient’s immediate caregiver, ask the caregiver what you can do to help before jumping in and helping as it will reduce any added stress or frustration.

Keep Track

The two most important things to log are the patient’s medication and any questions you may have for their care team.

Medication – Medication must be administered on schedule. You can keep a medication log that notates when the last dosage was given and when the next dose must be administered. Keep this near the patient so they can see how it is being tracked. You might also consider picking up a prescription dispenser at the local pharmacy to further organize this process.

Questions – Often time’s people discuss questions for a provider before an appointment and forget to ask when they are in the office. Writing these questions (or even symptom observances) down can not only help you and the patient further understand the situation, but it also helps the provider understand how to further help and explain the process.


There are many parts to assisting with comfort after surgery:

Set Up the Right Space- You want to make sure that the patient has a comfortable space to rest in. This space should be located on the ground floor if they have had a lower extremity joint replaced (hip or knee) as it might be difficult for them to go up and down stairs. Make sure the resting space is easily accessible to the patient, not too high or too low as this might cause difficulty when getting up or sitting down.

Be Prepared- You might want to have extra pillows and blankets nearby in the case they need extra support when sitting up or need elevation for their arms or legs. You will also want to make sure they have a charged cell phone to ensure they are able to contact you if you step away and they need assistance.

Help Around the House – The patient will have limited mobility for a few weeks and will need assistance with cleaning, laundry, bathing, and food. If you are not the immediate caregiver, these tasks are always a great place to start with assistance


Having limited mobility can be stressful and frustrating to anyone. There are a few ways you can help:

Be Patient –This is a time when communication is key. Express feelings without blame and without getting defensive. Practice good listening skills, and try not to take things said out of frustration and impatience personally.

Physical Therapy – In the beginning, they might express that they do not want to do their recommended exercises, remind them that what they are feeling is common and that rehab will help speed up their recovery. Helping to chart efforts, results, and progress may be motivating. Doing the exercises with them could also help keep them on track.

Power of Positivity – Lack of mobility can not only lead to frustration, it can also cause severe boredom. Try to keep them busy with positive things they enjoy such as films, music, games, or other activities that do not require much movement. Many encourage comedy after surgery as laughter (though not clinically proven) has been said to make people feel better


Make sure you are taking care of yourself in this process as well. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask, for your sake and the sake of the person you are assisting.

Proper preparation can help you successfully care for someone after total joint replacement surgery. Everyone’s recovery is different, but assistance will be needed daily for the first few weeks. As a primary caregiver, communication is key. If you think you need help, be honest and don’t try to do it alone. If you are not the primary caregiver and would like to help, consult the primary caregiver and the patient first before jumping in, make sure you are helping them in the best way possible.

Have questions about outpatient total joint surgery? Click here to learn more about how Coastal Orthopedics can help you: