Once you have decided to undergo spine surgery, it is beneficial to arrange the home to make it as safe and convenient as possible after surgery. Preparing your home beforehand can help ease the transition back home, especially because you will need to avoid bending over or lifting heavy objects for several weeks or months following surgery.
Here are several practical tips to consider:
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.
If bending needs to be avoided, buying slip-on shoes will allow patients to avoid having to bend down to tie shoes.
Other things to consider to help make recovery at home more comfortable:
- Shower equipment. Adding a shower mat and shower seat makes the bathroom safer and easier to use. Home health equipment may be covered by insurance.
- A cane or walker. If more stability is needed or wanted for moving about, a medical professional may recommend this option. Additionally, canes and walkers can be bought at some pharmacies and medical supply stores without a prescription.
- A mini-fridge or cooler. Keeping cool drinks and ice packs close at hand is more convenient and may help patients reduce moving, bending, or climbing stairs more than necessary.
- A recliner or extra cushions. The seating position in a recliner takes some pressure off the lower back. Sitting on a cushioned surface is also likely to be more comfortable.
- Fall prevention. It is best to remove anything that may be a tripping hazard, such as loose rugs or clutter. Some people also install handrails as needed, such as on stairs or in the shower.
- Ask for assistance. Arranging for someone to assist with heavier chores, such as laundry, may be necessary.