My younger sister had total knee replacement surgery on her right knee. She has benefited from home physical therapy and home health, visiting alternating days the first week after surgery. She walked with a walker. Her husband took off work to be with her during surgery day and transfer home day. Otherwise my other sister and I have split the time as caregivers.
We have learned ways to improve home care from the home care professionals. The surgery sister has a continuous passive motion, CPM, machine, which resembles a miniature alpine slide. Her leg is placed on the slide and as the device goes up and down the knee gently bends and straightens. As tolerated, the angle that the knee bends increases each day. The machine helps to move the joint, avoid stiffness and increase range of motion.
The polar care cube is another nifty device to keep her knee iced. The cube is like a six-pack cooler with an attached hose and ice pack at the end of the hose. The ice pack wraps around her knee and has an insulation barrier to chill the knee, but not freeze the joint. Ice reduces pain, swelling and inflammation. A water and ice combination filled cube cooler is supposed to stay chilled for 6 to 8 hours. The helpful PT said to fill plastic cups with water and place them in a muffin tin and freeze them in order to have ice that lasts all night and, when replaced, all the next day. The solid ice cylinders keep the Ice pack cold much longer than ice from trays.
My sister had a port in her knee for drainage. Since she is on blood thinners to avoid blood clots, the hole in her knee was not healing, but remained a hole. The home health nurse suggested that we increase her protein intake in order to promote healing of the annoying souvenir from the port. Who knew? Protein aids the body in repairing damaged tissues. The National Institute of Health confirms that deficiency in protein contributes to poor healing rates. So a high protein diet is essential during recovery, such as lean meat, chicken, fish, nuts, yogurt, eggs, and milk. This is even more critical for elderly patients. I immediately upped the protein in every meal. When home health came two days later, the wound was sealed and healing.
The physical therapist had my sister switch to a cane walking aid. The walker is a relic in the corner. The top of the cane is set to reach the crease in her wrist. She holds the cane in the opposite side that needs support. Her right knee was replaced so the cane is in her left hand. She starts her stride with the cane followed by the repaired leg, finishing the step with the good leg.
Now that we know the ropes from the knee-bending slide, six-pack knee cooler, high protein healing diet, and cane tricks, we will be better caregivers for the second knee replacement in two months.