Judy Kirkwood and husband
hip replacement

What I Wish We Had Known About Hip Replacements Before My Husband’s Surgery

When my husband’s hip and thigh pain prevented us from taking walks together, and then confined him to reclining on the couch watching TV all day, we knew he needed help. After an x-ray showed his ball and socket bones grinding against each other, hip replacement surgery was recommended. To prepare, I talked to everyone I knew who had undergone hip replacement and read everything I could on the subject. My husband watched YouTube videos of the process to see what was going to happen from the first cut to the last stitch (or staple).

What no one told us was what happens emotionally after hip replacement surgery. In addition, nothing was said in the handouts or hospital class we took to prepare for the surgery about the narcotics prescribed post-surgery.

As a caregiver, you will be told about helping the patient stand and sit, providing physical support with using the bathroom, showering, grooming, dressing, shopping, cleaning, cooking, doing laundry and errands, your duty to manage the finances, keep track of medical appointments and medications, and encourage physical therapy exercises daily. But no one will say your spouse may experience a roller coaster of moods or withdrawal symptoms coming off pain meds. These tips are a heads up for patient and caregiver as a team.

-Issue: Depression

Depression can be triggered by the anesthesia from surgery, pain medications, pain itself, and restricted movement. Add to this the universal desire to get back in shape as soon as possible. Many people assume if they do everything the doctor and physical therapist say to do – and then some – they will get better faster. When that doesn’t happen due to a variety of individual factors, the caregiver may have to deal with massive disappointment and their spouse’s feelings of inadequacy. Even though my husband was ahead of the curve in recovering skills, it didn’t happen as fast as he thought it should. Bottom line: bodies heal at different rates and no one should compare their progress to other people’s experiences unless perhaps that person is your genetic twin.

Action: Inform your doctor

Inform your surgeon you are feeling depressed. Surgeons generally don’t receive or react well to feedback that is “nonmedical.” But the brain is a medical organ that controls the rest of the body and must be considered in any invasive surgery. If your surgeon is not responsive, tell your general doctor. You may be prescribed an antidepressant. If already on one, your dose may need to be altered temporarily, especially given the amount of pain medication in the mix. Post-surgical depression is not abnormal and it will pass; but it may need to be tempered by medication. Also, surf Internet forums on patients’ experiences and you will likely find you are somewhere in the middle of the extremes.

Issue: Anxiety