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Getting your home ready - after the hospital


Almost everyone is excited about going home after having surgery or being ill in the hospital.

Set up your home to make your life is easier and safer when you return. This helps ensure that your recovery will be complete and fast. Ask your doctor, nurses, or physical therapist about getting your home ready for your return.

If your surgery is planned, prepare your home in advance. If your hospital stay was unplanned, have family or friends prepare your home for you. You may not need all of the changes listed below. But read carefully for some good ideas on how you can remain safe and healthy in your home.

Make it easy for yourself

Make sure everything you need is easy to get to and on the same floor where you will spend most of your time. If you need to use the stairs, limit using them to once a day, if possible.

  • Set up your bed on the first floor (or the entry floor) if you can. You may not need a hospital bed. But your mattress should be firm.
  • Have a bathroom or a portable commode on the same floor where you will spend most of your day.
  • Stock up on canned or frozen food, toilet paper, shampoo, and other personal items.
  • Either buy or make single meals that can be frozen and reheated.
  • Make sure you can reach everything you need without getting on your tiptoes or bending down.
  • Put food and other supplies in a cupboard that is between your waist and shoulder level.
  • Place glasses, silverware, and other items you use often on the kitchen counter.
  • Make sure you can get to your phone. A cell phone or wireless phone can be helpful.

Place a chair with a firm back in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and other rooms you will use. This way, you can sit when you do your daily tasks.

If you will be using a walker, attach a sturdy bag or a small basket to hold your phone, a notepad, a pen, and other things you will need to have close by. You can also wear fanny pack.

Get some help

You may need help with bathing, using the toilet, cooking, running errands, shopping, going to the doctor, and exercising.

If you do not have someone to help you at home for the first 1 or 2 weeks after surgery, ask your doctor or nurse about having a trained caregiver come to your home to help you. This person can also check the safety of your home and help you with your daily activities.

Some items that may be helpful include:

  • Shower sponge with a long handle
  • Shoehorn with a long handle
  • Cane, crutches, or a walker
  • Reacher to help you pick up things from the floor or put on your pants
  • Sock aid to help you put on your socks
  • Handle bars in the bathroom to help steady yourself

Bathroom setup

Raising the toilet seat height may make things easier for you. You can do this by adding an elevated seat to your toilet. You can also use a commode chair instead of a toilet.

You may need to have safety bars, or grab bars, in your bathroom:

  • Grab bars should be secured vertically or horizontally to the wall, not diagonally.
  • Install grab bars to help you get in and out of the tub.
  • Install grab bars to help you sit down and get up from the toilet.
  • Do not use towel racks as grab bars. They cannot support your weight.

You can make several changes to protect yourself when you take a bath or shower:

  • Put non-slip suction mats or rubber silicone decals in the tub to prevent falls.
  • Use a non-skid bath mat outside the tub for firm footing.
  • Keep the floor outside the tub or shower dry.
  • Place soap and shampoo where you do not need to stand up, reach, or twist to get it.

Sit on a bath or shower chair when taking a shower:

  • Make sure it has non-skid rubber tips on the legs.
  • Buy a seat without arms if it is placed in a bathtub.

Avoiding falls

Keep tripping hazards out of your home.

  • Remove loose wires or cords from areas you walk through to get from one room to another.
  • Remove loose throw rugs.
  • Fix any uneven flooring in doorways.
  • Use good lighting in doorways.
  • Have night lights placed in hallways and rooms that are dark.

Pets that are small or move around your walk space may cause you to trip. For the first few weeks you are home, consider having your pet stay elsewhere, such as with a friend, in a kennel, or in the yard.

Do not carry anything when you are walking around. You need your hands to help you balance.

Practice using a cane, walker, crutches, or a wheelchair while:

  • Sitting down to use the toilet and stand up after using the toilet
  • Getting in and out of the shower
  • Using the shower chair
  • Going up and down stairs

Updated: 8/4/2013

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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