Whether you need a colonoscopy, an eye operation, a hip or a knee replacement, or back surgery, there’s usually one common denominator: you need a ride home, because the anesthesia has to wear off. And you may also need some at-home help to recover.
If you’re married or co-habitating, your partner typically gets the chauffeuring job. But if your partner is not able, or you fly and live solo, it can get more complicated. And getting professional post-op help requires research and decisions, whatever your relationship status.
Where to start?
Get a Lift: Ride Home in Style
After most surgeries, you need someone who will actually come into the recovery room and fetch you—not a rideshare driver who waits at the curb and texts: “I’m here!” That person does not necessarily have to be your spouse or other family member, however.
If you run into a brick wall with family and friends’ inflexible schedules, try a car service, the type who takes executives to the airport or other places. Ask ahead, however, to be sure the driver can come into your facility and get you. I called a local car service and asked. Yes, when arranged in advance, they can do that, the manager told me. Fees vary around the country. For instance, in Los Angeles, a ride to a hospital 20 miles away would cost $110.
Get a Lift: Find Medical Transport
Another option is to hire a medical transport company, which may cost less than an executive car service. A local medical transport company in the Los Angeles area quoted me about $70 for the same 20-mile trip. Give them 48 or 72 hours’ notice, or as much as you can. Be sure they know you need them to come into the recovery area.
At Home Help: Insurance or Buy Your Own
Ask your doctor what help you might anticipate needing after surgery and for how long. Typically, if post-op help is expected to be necessary, your doctor will connect you with a home care agency, says Joy Cameron, vice-president of policy and innovation at the Visiting Nurse Associations of America, an organization representing home-based care providers.
If you are on a Medicare HMO plan, call member services to see what’s covered.
If you are not yet on Medicare, your doctor can still give you a list of accredited agencies.
Ask if you need prior approval, whatever health plan you are on. And in some cases, the agency may visit your home before the surgery, to ascertain what is needed after it, Cameron says.
If you have no insurance coverage for post-op help, you can hire a private nursing service or other at-home services on your own.
On a national level, you can search for providers in your area at the Medicare site or at this Visiting Nurses Association of America site.
Visiting nurse agencies offer a variety of services, says Lisa Berg, a director of Arizona Visiting Nurses. Her office can dispatch nurses as well as physical and occupational and speech therapists.
Check out the agency you choose—Is it state licensed? (Ask for their license number, then check with the state database). Is it Medicare certified if you are on it? Is it accredited by a reputable organization such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the Community Health Accreditation Program or the Accreditation Commission for Health Care, Inc.?
At Home Help: Reach Out To Friends Via Social Media
If you need less than professional help, or just some extra help in addition to nursing and other services, enlisting friends may work. When a friend, Karen Mangini of Los Angeles, recently had to have hip replacement surgery, she said she planned to hire help once she got home. Instead, we set up a Facebook messenger group, calling on friends to see if they could pitch in after the surgery. Her boyfriend already offered hospital delivery and pickup for the surgery.
In short order, 17 friends joined our Very Hip group. No one declined. It also became a good way for people to share their well wishes for recovery. And we saw proof that she was doing well—she posted a photo already using her walker just 8 hours after the surgery.
People would post on Messenger when they had time to help and to let them know what was needed. As it turned out, she needed very little, but found the approach valuable. “It made me feel comforted and cared for, even though I did not need much,” says Mangini. “Knowing that someone was there made all the difference in the world. It helped me heal.”
Setting up a texting conversation group on your smartphone or a Facebook secret group would also work.
Tell us what worked for you or your friends when you needed post-op help. Turning to your church group for help? Asking the dinner party group that wanted you back if they could help?
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