Figuring out how to help a friend after surgery can be a bit of a challenge, but there are some real answers that they will benefit from!
Support After Surgery
Surgery is a big deal. Whether it is major surgery due to an illness, an accident, or even a little fix, it makes an impact on your life.
The recovery process from surgery can be difficult to deal with alone, and having any type of support can make a world of difference. If you have a sick friend or family member who has been preparing for an upcoming surgery, you may be looking for ways to help afterward.
Depending on the type of surgery or illness that your loved one is dealing with, there are different things that you can pitch in on. Here are some ideas to get you started if you are trying to figure out what to bring someone after surgery or how to be of assistance.
How To Be Emotional Support After Surgery
While your best wishes are great, sharing words of encouragement and a positive attitude can help a person far more than their pain medicine.
You don’t always have to have the right words to affect a person’s recovery. Just the support of friends who express concern and stay in orbit will have a major impact.
Be a Fixture
The most important thing you can do for your loved ones both before and after surgery is to be there for them consistently. This doesn’t mean living at their house or becoming their constant companion (unless that makes sense for your relationship).
Consider making a quick phone call, sending a text, giving love on social media, or offering to visit whenever they are comfortable.
Having surgery can be very difficult and scary, so knowing that you have a support team can make a world of difference even if you don’t have a lot of time.
Positive distractions are a must during the recovery period. Surgery takes a major toll on both mental and physical health and your loved one will need to feed off of any energy you can bring.
This means that you don’t have to constantly focus on their health. They may enjoy your company as the best distraction of their day, so play some video games or board games, or find some funny memes to laugh about.
Do your best to maintain a smile and keep all of your interactions light. Unless your loved one wants to pour their heart out, be prepared to spend a little time watching funny movies or talking about cute memories you may have shared. It’s an easy way that you can help.
Remind Them of Their Reasons
It can be very natural for people to experience some depression after surgery. If they had a knee replacement, heart surgery, or breast surgery they may not have had a choice, but the road to recovery may be a little bit longer and/or tougher than they expected.
It is times like these when it’s a good idea to remind your loved one of why they had their surgery and of the changes it will hopefully make in their life.
Tell them how proud you are and remind them of the brighter side of the situation. This difficult time won’t last forever. Your kind words and cheerleading could be the thing that keeps them going when they don’t want to.
Share Your Own Experiences
Whether you have had the same kind of surgery as your friend or were once under general anesthesia, letting your friend know that you can relate can be a great way to be an emotional support.
When it comes to unique experiences, it can be easy to feel that you are the only one who understands, which leads to feeling alone. One of the best things that you can do is to share a little about what you went through.
Give a little rundown of your own situation, the successes you saw, the length of time it took to get back on your feet, and the unrealistic expectations you may have had.
Be careful not to push it, as your friend may be able to only focus on their own surgical procedures or medical team at the moment, but giving the general message that you understand the discomfort and uncertainty of this time can be very loving.
What To Do After Surgery
When someone is released from the recovery room and taken back home, it can be tough to get proper rest and pain relief. The good news is that there are a few things that you can do to make the transition easier.
Offer A Ride
Does your friend need to see the doctor post-surgery or go for their first physical therapy evaluation? Providing a ride to follow-up appointments can be a huge help.
You don’t have to be a chaperone, as that may push your friend out of their comfort zone, but doing the actual driving and sticking around in case of an emergency could be just what they need.
Provide the offer of help and see what they say. With day-to-day life happening all around them, offering to step in so that a spouse or children don’t have to change their schedules might be the solution they were hoping for.
Help Restock Supplies and Medication
Hopefully, your loved one has gotten all of the supplies that they need for their healing process (bandages, ointments, etc.), but as a little time goes on, the supplies run out. Before coming over to visit, ask if there is anything you can pick up on the way.
Additionally, the doctor may have prescribed pain medication or your loved one might take other maintenance medications daily. See if you can run that errand for them so that it can be one less item for them to worry about.
Help with Hygiene (Potentially)
Depending on the level of surgery, some people may not be as mobile as others. No one enjoys feeling like they have poor personal care skills, so see what you can do to help them out.
The best way to do this is casually. A close friend may appreciate the practical help, but cancer patients or others who are in a cycle of managing surgery frequently may have a tough time being open to saying yes. We all know what it feels like when you want to do it yourself, but can’t.
This is going to be a bit of a touchy subject, so allow your loved one to take the lead. Remember that you are not trained to take care of someone by bathing them and carrying them (unless you are one of the few who actually are), so think about the very basics that you can provide.
A washcloth and soapy water so that they can wash their face (or you can), deodorant and dry shampoo along with a brush, and/or some lip balm to help chapped lips. If nothing else, maybe you can just help them change their shirt or blanket.
This is a more sensitive area of care than some might be comfortable with, so only offer what is within the comfort level of your relationship.
Remind Them to Rest
Rest is a key factor in a speedy recovery, but a lot of people fight it. Make sure that your loved one is getting plenty of rest and isn’t doing more than they absolutely have to (or is prescribed by their doctor). This is especially important right after surgery.
To assist in encouraging some downtime after recent surgery, offer to get them a water bottle or a snack and put on a movie or a show that you can watch together. Encourage any activity that doesn’t require much movement and if they doze off, all the better.
Help with Their Daily Tasks
One of the major concerns of most people who have just gotten out of surgery is how to keep everyone else’s daily life running smoothly. If this person is in any way a caretaker, being down and out for a short or long period of time can interrupt the flow.
Offering to help drive the kids to school or walk the dogs, put in a load of laundry, or clean up the kitchen can help reduce a whole lot of stress and worry. Good wishes are important, but pitching in will go a long way toward your loved one making a full recovery.
What To Bring Someone After Surgery
Before your loved one can get back to normal activities, helping them to have small experiences with instant gratification can be a treat. Whether it’s a get well message from students or a little care package to help them pamper themselves, quick and easy ideas are best.
Make with the Snacks
I know that every article out there is going to tell you to make sure that your loved one has good foods and beverages around in order to help them heal – and that’s good advice. Let me add here that your friend would also LOVE it if you bring them some junk.
A bag of chips or a chocolate bar can be a welcome relief after hospital food, so a gift basket of snacks can go a long way. With the physical and emotional challenges that exist around surgery, sometimes it is nice to have some things that feel like cheating.
So if you know that your friend’s favorite food is Cheetos, bring them a bag. Pair it with a green juice if you must, but give them at least a small cheat on the road to recovery.
Make Dinner for the Family
Bringing over a casserole or a gift card for a local restaurant can be a huge help to the family. When someone has had surgery, the last thing they often think about is how to feed themselves, so making meals easier is a great gift and they will greatly appreciate the extra effort.
If you aren’t familiar with the restaurants in the area where your loved one lives, consider sending them a Grubhub gift card. This allows them to order delivery from anywhere local and they can use the gift card to cover the cost.
Offer to Do the Grocery Shopping
One simple way to help a recovering friend is by being their fingers. If your friend has a food delivery service like Instacart, this is the time to use it. They can let you know what they need and you can place the order. If they don’t have one, this is a great time to try it out!
If they only need a few items, offer to run to the store and pick them up on the way over. Every little bit helps and if you have the extra time, this is a great way to assist.
Surgery can create incredible stress on both a person and their family. Being a loving friend who can offer assistance in different ways will truly help encourage a quick recovery and possibly even shorten the recovery time.
The best gift that you can give is your love and attention, so hopefully, you can make their hard time just a little bit easier.