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6 Practical Tips on How to Prepare Your Family for Your Surgery

6 Practical Tips on How to Prepare Your Family for Your Surgery

Whether you are having a minor non-invasive surgical procedure or a major surgery it is important to discuss a variety of details with your family.

From the basics of “Can you drive me home from the hospital?” to your medical and financial wishes, here is a list to guide you in your preparations.

1. Basic logistics

Who will be with you while preparing for the procedure? Who will come into the recovery room? Who will be your emergency contact? Who will drive you home?

2. Discuss the intent of the procedure with your family.

A gallbladder removal is fairly straight forward. A coronary artery bypass is much more complicated. If undergoing an amputation make sure those closest to you know which limb. Ask your surgeon to explain the procedure to a family member in person or over the telephone.

3. Discuss the expected recovery.

Will you require pain medication or antibiotics when you go home? Will rehabilitation be required? Will you need assistive equipment like a walker?

These questions allow your family to be involved with discharge planning at the hospital and to recognize if something is missing in your plan of care.

4. Will a family member be needed to care for you for an extended length of time?

Let them know ahead of time so that they can request leave from their employer who may require FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) paperwork that will need to be signed by the physician.

5. Do you care for another?

It is important to have a plan in place for the care of your children, spouse, parents, or whomever you care for in the event that you are not able to return to those responsibilities as soon as expected.

6. Discuss possible complications.

Are you at risk because of other medical diagnoses like diabetes or heart problems? Hospitals will ask for a variety of (optional) legal paperwork that is highly advisable to have in place prior to the procedure.

a. An Advanced Directive allows you to legally document what you would like done for you if you cannot speak or make decisions, from blood transfusion to end-of-life decisions.

Ideally family members are aware of your choices and have a copy of your documents. This helps to avoid confusion if complications were to occur.

b. A Living Will outlines your wishes if you are permanently unconscious or dying. You can accept or refuse certain treatments. Treatments such as dialysis, CPR, tube feeding, and organ and tissue donation can be addressed in this document.

c. A Power of Attorney for Health Care legally documents the person you allow to make healthcare decisions for you if you are incapable. This is separate from a Power of Attorney for Finance.

d. NOTE that Advanced Directives require the signature of a witness, while Living Wills and Power of Attorneys must be notarized.


By Anna K. Coss  RN, BSN, MSN

Make sure to read these 16 tips on how to optimally prepare for surgery.

4 Responses to 6 Practical Tips on How to Prepare Your Family for Your Surgery

  1. A couple weeks ago my aunt had surgery on her knee. Before the surgery she did exactly what you suggested, that is, discuss the expected recovery. She made sure to ask her doctor what she could expect beforehand and then told her children what she needed from them. So far, they have been really helpful in assisting her around the house.

  2. I like how you suggest asking your surgeon to explain the procedure being performed to a family member. I feel like this would help ease any anxiety a family member has over your surgery since they would have a better understanding as to what will be happening. I know my wife is pretty nervous about the chance of my mother-in-law needing a gallbladder removal, and I think she’d feel better if a surgeon was able to explain the procedure to her.

  3. I can definitely see why you would want to discuss antibiotics and other recovery methods after your recent surgery. My brother has been struggling with some serious liver issues and we are all very concerned for him. I just hope that we can find a surgical service that can perform the necessary procedure professionally.

  4. I’m glad that you talked about letting family know ahead of time if they will need to help you after surgery. I have a surgery I need to plan, and I wasn’t sure how to prepare. I can see how it would be nice to let my sister know she might need to help me, because I won’t be able to walk for a little while after.

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