How to Care for a Woman After Surgery

After Surgery Care

Ten Post-Op Caregiver Tips for Men

Women tend to stay home with sick kids and ailing husbands, so what’s a man to do when his wife or girlfriend suddenly needs care after a surgical procedure? When a person is sick, it’s not easy to articulate what one needs or wants—and with a woman, it’s often tricky because she’s accustomed to giving care, not receiving it.

If your sweetheart ever needs your caregiving skills, remember these tips.

1. Communication. Ask her beforehand what level of care she thinks she will want. Does she expect you to take a day or two off work and hang out around the house with her? Does she prefer to be in the house by herself and have you check in by phone, text or in person? Figure this out before she has surgery—and she’ll feel loved because you asked.

Tip #1: Communication is key to #caregiving. Explore expectations ahead of time. Click To Tweet

2. Solidarity. My honey refrained from eating or drinking in my presence during the tortuous hours before my surgery.

3. Photos. It today’s world, we tend to snap and post every event in our lives. Check with her before posting a pre-op or post-op photo on your social media channels—especially if it’s embarrassing.

4. Bring supplies. You’ll want to have salty, bland snacks on hand (the hospital soda crackers can instantly suck all the moisture out of an already dehydrated post-op body). You’ll want bottled water for the drive home. Bring things to keep yourself occupied during surgery—doctors always give estimated times, but procedures and recovery often take longer than expected.

5. Take notes. The surgeon will come out and talk to you when s/he finishes the procedures. Take notes. Your sweetie most likely won’t see the surgeon again until the post-op follow up visit (often 10 days or more later), and she’ll be curious about what the surgeon said after surgery.

6. Drive carefully. If you’re the designated driver, drive very carefully all the way home. If your sweetie feels nauseous, she’s likely to toss her cookies if you take the corners too quickly. Carry an emesis bag or basin in the car—sometimes, even the most tender driving won’t prevent post-op mishaps. Be willing to empty the bag or basin, too.

7. Choose your words carefully. If you happen upon your sweetheart kneeling on the floor with her forehead to the ground and her derriere in the air because she’s having problems with post-op regularity, it’s probably not the time to tell her she needs to ‘deal with the pain.’ Instead, use this situation as an opportunity to use your empathy skills. Offer soothing words such as, ‘That’s terrible!” and “I’m so sorry you’re having problems.” Offer to bring her milk of magnesia, prunes or fiber pills. Stand by and hold her hand while she downs the cures—it takes bravery to consume any of them.

Tip #7: Choose your words carefully when #caregiving. Click To Tweet

8. Know her love language. My honey went out and bought the newly released Beauty and the Beast video when our first child was born. He even watched it with me.

9. Encourage her to take it easy AND pick up the slack. If the doctor says ‘no lifting for six weeks,’ than make sure she has no occasion to lift anything. Vacuum, sweep, go grocery shopping, do the laundry—or hire someone to come in and do it. Not following the doctor’s orders can result in a second surgery down the road—not to mention prolonging the recovery time.

10. Make a point to cheer her up. If a woman feels blue after a surgery, it’s because she had surgery—not because of hormones. Anesthesia is hard on the body, and it will take time to recover. During recovery, it’s likely that your sweetheart will feel out of sorts and depressed—a natural reaction to having routines and activities interrupted by illness.

How about you?  Have you ever been the recipient of care after surgery or during a long illness?  What helped you the most? What do you wish the person caring for you knew but were afraid to tell them?

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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