The decision to get a hip replacement often comes with its joys. There is the feeling that it is about time to let go of the aches, pain, and stiffness from the ‘old or worn out’ hip. However, these joys may be somewhat short-lived with all the half-truths going on about life after hip replacement, especially for the older adults. There is the depiction of these times as quite hard. Well, as a highly experienced caregiver, I have learned that hip replacement changes the life of the elderly for the better. However, caregivers must exercise a lot of caution to the patients to avoid sabotaging the entire operation. Let’s dive into the details!
Hip Replacement Complications
Don’t let beginning this session with possible complications scare you. Hip replacement surgery’s risk of complication is quite low. However, it is still essential to understand any potential complications that may arise, especially since the focus here is on older adults, and age increases the risk of complications.
The first category of complications are surgery-related. Blood clots can form in the leg veins after surgery. It is easy to ignore this possibility. However, it may be detrimental to an older person as there are chances, albeit rare, of the clot breaking off and traveling to the lungs, the brain, or the heart. To counter this risk, most doctors will give blood thinning prescriptions. There is also the risk of nerve and vessel damage as the surgeons fit in the implant.
Remember that hip replacement will cause an incision to come to contact with a part of the body tissue. This means that there is a risk of infection. From experience, I would say that this is one of the most devastating complications. The infection can so quickly eat up tissue, and if its recognition does not happen in the earlier stages, it could kill more rapidly than most Cancers. The good news is, the risk of occurrence is low, and antibiotics or a second hip replacement can quickly solve the complication.
It would be devastating and draining to have a hip replacement and then dislocate it after a short while. Well, this is one of the most likely complications, especially amongst elderly females. Dislocation will occur when the ball of the new joint comes out of the socket. This happens mostly due to the adoption of wrong postures while sitting, standing, or moving about. The risk of this complication decreases as the individual continues healing.
Sometimes, people who have had implants may notice that one leg has become shorter than the other. It happens because of the contraction of muscles around the hip. This is not a serious complication as such since rectification can happen through lifting one shoe. Our physiotherapist recommends constant stretching of these muscles to strengthen them as a perfect solution.
Body movement restrictions after hip replacement
Often, the patients I have had to take care of want to feel they are in control soon after the operation. They want to regain their independence for different reasons. However, it is our duty as caregivers to ensure that they adhere to the body restrictions outlined to avoid sabotaging the entire operation through dislocation. So which are these body restrictions?
Hip replacement patients should not;
- Bend their hips and knees any further than 90 degrees. This means that they cannot lift their legs for simple tasks such as wearing socks. They cannot also bend down to pull their blankets while in bed.
- Lean forward while sitting
- Cross their legs at the knees or walk pigeon-toed.
- Get involved in activities that would cause stress to the joint such as jogging, jumping, and contact sports.
- Climb or go down staircases. If they have to, our physiotherapist recommends using the ‘good leg’ as the guide for the ‘bad leg’ and crutches. This avoids exerting unnecessary pressure on the hip.
- Bend on the ‘good knee.’
Sports you can engage in after hip replacement.
Body movement restrictions do not mean that the patient cannot engage in exercises and sports. There is a need for hip replacement patients to achieve a balance between activity and rest for fast and proper recovery. Your hip replacement patient can engage in low impact sports without putting themselves at the risk of hip dislocation. Most orthopedic surgeons will recommend waiting for about three months before participating in outdoor sports. Therefore, the level of activity in the first few months is limited to exercising, which is also a form of the game.
- Exercycling (stationary bike) – Helps in regaining muscle strength and hip mobility.
- Walking – Assists in regaining balance.
- Swimming- should take place after the total healing of the wood. Reduces joint pressure and promotes better circulation speeding up the recovery process.
- Cycling- Serves as a joint lubricant, reducing stiffness. It should happen after about six weeks in recovery and the green light from the doctor.
After hearing that hip replacement patients can engage in sports, most tend to have questions on the best equipment to make this a success. Well, below are two equipment I have had an encounter with and found useful for my patients.
The re-engagement of muscles after a hip replacement is imperative to ensure building strength. This requires ankle exercises, which may have less impact without exerting some weight. That is where I have found ankle weights quite useful. The Yes4All Comfort weights are adjustable, which makes it easy to maximize the comfort of the user. The best thing about them is that they are lightweight and therefore portable. However, I found that the straps started breaking after about a week, and the contents started coming out of the pockets, which was quite disappointing. My patients have also complained of pain after training sessions. I attribute this to the thin straps that seem to press onto the flesh painfully.
Most patients want to regain their balance as the first thing after a hip replacement. Well, I had always struggled with helping my patients achieve this until I found this Airex Balance Pad. This product features a super soft specialty foam that provides a level of instability for the improvement of joint stability as the patient attempts to gain balance. You don’t have to worry about its longevity as it is tear-resistant and easy to clean. If you are looking for equipment to help regain motor and balance skills, then look no further!
Clothing and shoes to wear after hip replacement.
A hip replacement patient wants to look good but still feel comfortable. The recommendation is for patients to wear loosely fitting clothing. This ensures ease of getting the clothing in and out of the patient’s body without straining their hips. For shoes, the recommendation is to have shoes with low and wide heels. Ladies should not go back to wearing their high heels immediately.
Basic toileting should not present a nightmare for hip replacement patients. Nevertheless, this is the case with most patients as they have restricted body movements—the doctors’ advice against twisting and turning to avoid hip dislocation. Thanks to the constant innovations in toilet hygiene, this is no longer a nightmare for most patients. So, what can they use?
Who said wiping was the only way to get clean after toileting? Well, if there ever was such a rule, then the time has overtaken it. Hip replacement patients can use bidets, which are hand-held nozzles placed next to the bowl. The patient, after toileting, then uses the nozzle to wipe themselves clean. The caregiver needs to ensure that the water temperature is appropriate for the patient.
These are simply extension tools that hold the tissue or the wet wipe. After toileting activities, the patient only has to use the extension tool to reach out and clean themselves. Most wiping aids have buttons that quickly release the tissue into the toilet after wiping.
Assistance from the caregiver
This is something that most patients do not want. It may take away their sense of pride and independence. However, when there are no options, the caregiver can assist the patient to clean up.
Hip replacement recovery time for elderly
My elderly patients keep asking the same question time and time again. When will I recover? When can I go back to my regular routine? If you are a caregiver, I know these questions are quite familiar. It is quite frustrating when we respond with only estimations of the recovery time for the elderly. However, this is much better than outrightly lying to them. Hip replacement recovery depends on an individual and may take between 6 to 12 months for the elderly. The muscle mass and the bone density of a senior have decreased significantly, which is why they may take longer than a younger person. The older person’s journey to normalcy may begin a few days after the operation, where you can assist them in taking short walks until they can do it themselves. Please ensure that they use their canes and observe any signs and symptoms of pain.