Getting Ready for Your Heart Surgery Recovery at Home

By Adam Pick on February 11, 2014

More than half a million heart surgeries are done each year in the United States, according to the National Institute of Health. This once scary surgery is becoming more-and-more commonplace, and with increasing success rates, more people are recovering at home after their hospital stay. However, please, please, please get your home ready BEFORE you go in for surgery to make sure your are prepared. Here are a few suggestions for you, your family and friends.


Heart Surgery Patient Recovering At HomeDuane Hunt – Mitral Valve Surgery Patient Recovering at Home


Be Patient With Your Recovery

You should receive discharge instructions from your doctor when you leave the hospital, but it helps to be mentally prepared for a recovery time of several weeks or months, notes WebMD. This may vary depending on your health prior to the surgery, any complications that happened while in the hospital, and your motivation to follow instructions when you get home.


A Comfortable Place to Recover

Your healing can depend on you being active, but when setting up your home, have your goals be comfort and convenience. Move furniture around, in advance, so it is easier for you to get around your house. Moving from your bed to the bathroom to the kitchen to the living room should not require navigating an obstacle course.

You may have some dizziness during the first few weeks of recovery from your heart valve surgery, so try to have things you can hold onto when you walk through the house. A chair placed here and there will break up long stretches of open space, and will provide you a place to rest if feeling dizzy. The National Library of Medicine suggests you have someone stay with you for the first two weeks of recovery in case you do need assistance.

For a few weeks following cardiac surgery, you may have some discomfort in your chest or ribs. In the hospital, it was likely you receive a big red pillow or towel to hold against your chest when you cough or sneeze. Whenever you are in your house, have a pillow or towel handy in case a cough sneaks up on you.


The Big Red Patient Pillows


Because of the discomfort, you may find it difficult to sleep. You might consider renting a hospital bed or a recliner for a few weeks so you can raise your head or feet to get in a better position. If you find it difficult to sleep during the day, but don’t want to make the house completely dark, look at the solar shades at for various styles and levels of sun blockage. These window treatments will let diffuse light in while keep out the glare and heat of direct sunlight.

Place some small tables around the bed to hold important items and save you some steps. You don’t want to get comfortable in bed to discover the TV remote is across the room by the TV. You will need to be careful reaching and stretching so you don’t put stress on the incision. Specifically, don’t reach behind you where your chest area might expand. Place everything you need in front or just off to the side of you.


Activity Levels

Your doctor will tell you how much activity you can do and when. Following their specific instructions will help to speed up your recovery. Keep in mind that some activity is a good thing, and much better than lying in bed all day. Be prepared that you will be instructed to get up and walk periodically through your house. Help ease back into your active lifestyle by having a comfortable chair next to your bed so you can change positions throughout the day. If you have to climb any stairs, do it slowly and carefully.

Do you have any tips or advice for setting up your home for the recovery from heart surgery? Scroll down to post or read other patient comments!

Keep on tickin!

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Susan Smith says on February 11th, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Thanks Adam. I have already check into renting a electric life lounge chair as I have trouble get up from a chair now. I of course am pre-op. I think I am going print this one for my care taker when the time comes and it will come. Thanks again,. Susan Smith

Pankaj says on February 14th, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Hi Adam,

I am facing the problem of Pulmonary valve stenosis and I have been advised for surgery. I am in Dallas and looking for option of best surgen to support. Do you have any thing to share about any experince anyone shared with you will be help to me.


Annmarie says on February 14th, 2014 at 10:49 pm

I would like some suggestions on preparing for surgery. I will be having the standard aortic valve replacement surgery. It will take place at UCLA.


Pamela says on February 15th, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Hi Adam. An important room to consider, when getting your home ready for recovery, is the bathroom. Even washing your hair can be a bit of a strain on a still-healing sternotomy so instead of large bottles of shampoo and conditioner, try keeping a pump bottle in the shower caddy, at waist height, in order to get the right amounts into your palm for use in the shower. Invest in a shower chair, these can fit into your bathtub or shower and won’t take up floor space. Speaking of showers, a handheld nozzle will make rinsing your hair and washing while seated markedly easier. I hope all those in the waiting room will have an uncomplicated surgery and speedy recovery.

Carrie Bishop says on June 9th, 2014 at 1:55 am

Thank you so much for these tid bits of information. My father in law is having heart valve surgery next week. I know he will have a week in the hospital to recover, it’s home that I wonder about. Is there anything besides the red pillow you mentioned that would make him feel more comfortable? This also includes items to keep him busy as I foresee depression in near future. He is a very independent man and will not ask for help or say if he needs anything. He tends to withdraw and tends to become depressed. My husband and I can only stay for two weeks then must return home out of state. His wife will be with him but both are elderly, other family will stop by to check on them. Please help my with anything I may have readily on hand to make transition and boredom be minimal.

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