Our team started WayWiser because we’ve all had a personal experience seeing a loved one get scammed or exploited and we wanted to find a way to attack this problem head on. But beyond the financial complications that come with elder exploitation, we’ve also all seen our parents and other family members become older and need more help from us as their health declines with age.
Recently, I felt this in a very real way. My mother had been dealing with a few health complications and it ultimately led to surgery. She’s recovering smoothly, but it has been a real hands-on learning lesson for me as I wanted her to be comfortable after surgery. As a relatively young adult myself, this was one of my first experiences needing to care for a parent. I was tasked with helping my mom through the recovery process and I’ve come out the other side with a lot more knowledge than I had before.
One thing that has become wildly apparent to me over the past few months as the team and I run through the research process for WayWiser and Word To The Wise is that while we’re well informed about how to handle issues for ourselves or our children, there is very little information out there on how to do best for your parents once you’re in a position when you must care for them.
The idea of our parents aging into a condition where roles reverse and we need to care for our caretakers is often neglected. This information certainly exists, so there must be a reason that it isn’t being shared more regularly.
Perhaps it’s just something that we don’t like to think about. Nobody wants to imagine the day when their parents can no longer care for themselves. These are the people who raised us. They hold the answers to all of our questions. They are our lifeline when we feel the most vulnerable.
Moving into a position where we hold the answers and we help our parents when they are most vulnerable is extremely tough, to say the least. But it doesn’t need to be. We just need to be prepared.
Having just had the experience helping my mother recover from surgery, and having a platform like Word To The Wise at my disposal, I thought it would be important to share some of the knowledge that I’ve gained.
The following are 8 simple tips to help a loved one feel comfortable after surgery that I recently learned through trial and error while helping my mom recover from surgery that will hopefully help you as well when you need to make a loved one feel more comfortable during their own recovery process.
1 – Eye Masks For Relaxation And Headache Relief
There isn’t much worse than a splitting headache. Even when otherwise healthy, a killer migraine or even just a slight pain throbbing behind your eyes can make life miserable. Watching my mother try to recover from surgery, the first thing that popped onto my radar was the need to relieve her headaches. Even when she wasn’t suffering from acute pain, a comforting, cool eye mask would provide her with incredible relaxation effects.
There are dozens of options when it comes to an eye mask, but personally I find that the ones made with gel beads, the sort that can be kept cool in the freezer or warmed up easily in a microwave are the best. This one from Amazon is a good bet.
15 minutes of a cold compress on my mom’s face would really help her relax. It may not be exactly the same as a day at the spa, but if nothing else, it was a moment of respite from the stress and headaches that surgery can cause.
2 – An Electronic Massager To Work Out Those Knots
I didn’t realize it before spending those couple of weeks with my mom, but the body really tenses up after surgery. I don’t know if it’s the position that your body is in during the process, the hours spent in bed during recovery, or just the mental effects on your muscles. Whatever the answer, some calming massages were really important for my mom during the recovery process.
There are some high end (read: expensive) products like the Theragun or the Hypervolt on the market that people are really loving as they give a legitimate deep tissue massage. They are great as they can be used by the patient themselves for legs or arms, but they would need help from a caregiver if needing work on their back.
Something a bit less intense, and perhaps better for older adults or really anyone coming out of intense surgery, is the heated, weighted massager. I personally didn’t think it was going to be too great, but my mom really enjoyed the calming effects of this massager and it greatly helped her feel comfortable after surgery.
3 – Consider an In-Home Masseuse
Tools are great and can be there at all hours of the day, whenever aches and pains may arise, but nothing beats the real deal. Massages can be very relaxing and help someone recover quickly from surgery as I’ve always found that so much about recovery is mental. If you can relieve your parent or loved ones from from anxiety and perhaps relieve them from pain, if even for a few minutes, the effects on recovery will shine brightly.
Personally, I found that Chinese Reflexology was a great way to go. It’s a relaxing massage (you most likely wouldn’t want to go with any sort of deep tissue work) and beyond that, the pricing tends to be a bit more friendly.
4 – Heating Pads Are Wonderful
Pain relief. ✅
Stress relief. ✅
Easy to use. ✅
One of the best devices that helped my mom feel comfortable after surgery was a simple heating pad. Something like this works wonders when it comes to de-stressing both the muscles and the mind. It was easy for my mom to control the temperature, I just had to be wary about how long she was using the heating pad for, as if left to her own devices, she may have laid on it all day long.
5 – Get Creative With Pillows
Oddly enough, this is a tip that I learned while dealing with pregnancy pains. Laying in bed for long periods of time with already awkward things going on in your body, using pillows in creative ways to get your body into comfortable positions can be a true magic trick.
There are all sorts of bizarre looking maternity pillows on the market and while they look a bit ridiculous, there is a reason to their madness. However, you don’t really need to get one of these enormous pillows just to help your mom or dad out for a few weeks of recovery. Using ordinary pillows or even cushions from the couch, you can figure out creative ways to wedge them behind their back or between their legs or under their arms. It took a minute, but once my mom and I figured out the proper set up, it really helped her sleep through the night. It helped her stay comfortable after surgery and cozy in a rather un-cozy moment.
6 – Fresh Air and Sunlight
One of my favorite tips, both for loved ones who you are trying to comfort after surgery, or just as a stress reliever for yourself as a caregiver, is to get outside.
It’s incredible what a bit of sunshine and fresh air can do for your well being. This seems to go double when we’re talking about someone like my mom who was cramped up in a bedroom all day long. Depression can really set in when you’re stuck between 4 walls and I found that my mom’s demeanor and overall attitude about recovery would perk up when we were able to get her outside.
That said, don’t force the issue. That first week or two post surgery can take some serious physical tolls on the body, making it hard to get outside without the assistance of a wheelchair or otherwise. And to be really honest with you, there were many times when my mom just didn’t want to go outside.
If, for whatever reason, getting outside for 20 minutes isn’t in the cards, see if you can just open a window. Try to get a breeze going through the room (of course, without making it too cold or hot) and see if you can get a bit of sunshine to brighten the interior walls.
7 – Pretend You’re A Hotel Housekeeper
It’s a pain and I barely ever even make my own bed at home these days, but there is a reason that hotels will come in each day to refresh your room. Little things like fluffing pillows, straightening blankets, and generally tidying up will create a sense of dignity for your loved one. Rather than feeling like life is falling apart, they will have a sense of order and togetherness.
Regularly washing sheets and pajamas will help them feel fresh. My mom was spending her days laying down. The opportunity to put her head against a freshly washed pillowcase or pull up a blanket that smelled clean from detergent would help her feel more pleasant and whole. It was great to see how far a bit of tidying up could help when trying to make her comfortable after her surgery.
8 – Listen
As with any relationship, the best thing that you can do is listen. Be supportive, do everything in your power to do what you think is best, but when it comes down to it, just listen.
My mom, or whomever you may be caring for knows best what they want. If they are annoyed with an activity, give it a rest. If they want something that doesn’t seem quite ideal, as long as it won’t hurt them, there is no big deal if you give in a bit and let them be happy for a minute.
There Will Be Good Days and There Will Be Bad Days
Caring for a loved one after they’ve had surgery is not a job for perfectionists. You need to be okay with a “B+” grade.
To paraphrase the famed quote, the best laid plans of mice and men will often go awry.
You may go into the recovery process with lofty expectations. You might have the best frozen eye masks, state of the art relaxation pillows, the best masseuse in town scheduled to be there on a daily basis, but no matter what, there will be good days and there will be bad days.
The best advice that I can give you is to manage your own stress on the bad days and to take advantage of the good days. You only have your parents, siblings, spouses, or other loved ones for so long. Appreciate the time that you will have with them as they recover. Your company might just be the best medicine.