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?

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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  • This reminds me of the time when I had been down with a back injury for long days and days, and my good husband came home bearing the gift of new books for me to read! I still remember that so fondly. Great practical post, and I hope you are feeling better every day.
    Michele Morin recently posted…Another Generation of AnythingMy Profile

  • I hope you’re feeling better!

    The important part of this list is really communication – each partner should ideally know what’s expected of them, before the post-op or illness period hits. Learning on the fly leads to misunderstandings, and mistakes.

    Especially important for people like me; I’m pretty ruthless with myself, and others fear I’ll be that way with them. I’ve done minor surgery on the dogs, and on myself, and training to do that, one can’t be squeamish, or overly empathetic.

    To be a good caregiver, I have to know that it’s not ME I’m caring for.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…#BlogBattle – The Money FrogMy Profile

    • I am feeling much better this afternoon, Andrew (thus, the energy to write a post ;)). Those are wise words, there–“To be a good caregiver, I have to know that it’s not ME I’m caring for.”
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…How to Care for a Woman After SurgeryMy Profile

  • Your tips are spot on Anita! I had surgery and was laid up for four weeks. The best tip I have for that time is humility. We need to humble ourselves to accept the help of others. It truly was the most humbling experience for someone used to always doing everything and taking care of myself. I hope you are doing okay and that it was nothing major. Blessings my friend!!
    Mary Geisen recently posted…God Provides…The Church LessonMy Profile

    • Oh, yes! Humility is definitely key! I’m not used to be being a caregivee, and I have to remind myself to let others do things for me. It wasn’t a major surgery–but my first time under general–and boy, did it ever put me through the wringer!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…How to Care for a Woman After SurgeryMy Profile

  • I sat here nodding like CRAZY! After being in and out of the hospital several times, I can personally verify that all of these points are SO valuable! You know if you have been there! Great list!
    Bethany Boring recently posted…I Am YoursMy Profile

  • Donne

    Fantastic list! I will chime in with your doctor and tell you not to lift ANYTHING for the prescribed amount of time. I cut corners a bit on my first surgery and the doctor found pretty severe scar tissue during my second surgery. She then told me not to lift anything over 5 pounds for a YEAR. Do you realize how many things in this world of ours weigh less than 5 pounds? A whole lot less than I thought. 🙁 Even simple shopping trips turn into a chore when you have to find someone willing to lift bags of sugar or flour or jugs of milk into your cart for you. Believe me, you don’t want to have to be in that spot. Take it easy! Glad you made it through your first experience with anesthesia. 🙂

  • Did I miss something? Were you expecting to become the caregivee? I have been missing you in the group posts and was about to put out an amber alert. So glad to read this and know you are ok, albeit, post op???
    I LOVE this post and must bookmark it for the next time someone I know/love is about to go for a procedure because you are spot-on.
    xo You and Pedro take care of one another. “Serve one another in love.”
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  • Don

    Take special restraint with that body of yours, my dear care-giving daughter, it may have to last you a LONG time.
    Your busy man now has an opportunity to enhance and hone his caregiving skills. Don’t deprive him of this too soon.
    Love you, Poppy don

  • This is great insight to keep handy for times of need. Thank you for this instructive word that will help so many families. Cheering you from the #RaRalinkup on PurposefulFaith.

  • Oh do I have a regularity story from 5 days after our first daughter was born. My poor husband handled it well!
    Glad you are feeling better!
    Sarah Donegan recently posted…Love is Not ComplicatedMy Profile