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Life in Motion

Tips to be a Better Caregiver after a Patient’s Surgery

Health & Prevention

Preparing for surgery can be overwhelming for a person, particularly if the recovery period will limit the patient’s ability to take care of him or herself. A caregiver plays an important role in helping the patient, both physically and emotionally, throughout the surgery and recovery process.

Maryellen O’Connell, RN, works with patients and their caregivers through the nurse liaison program at NEBH. As a nurse liaison, she meets with patients and their families prior to surgery to discuss the procedure and any questions or concerns, and provides up-to-date progress and information on the day of surgery. Below, Maryellen provides a few tips for caregivers to ensure that you provide the best assistance possible for your loved one.


Plan to go along with the patient to pre-surgery appointments. It’s helpful to have a second person to take notes on any instructions that are given. You can also help by asking the doctor about questions or concerns that the patient might have forgotten to address.

See our post on 7 Questions to Ask Your Doctor before Surgery for details about the paperwork, forms of identification, medical information, and phone numbers the patient should bring to the hospital, and double check that you have them with you before you leave for the surgery. If you had any imaging done at another facility, be sure to bring it with you.

If you are coming from out of town, you may want to make arrangements for accommodations for yourself.


Once the patient has been released by the hospital, you should provide transportation back to the patient’s home. Be prepared to stop at a pharmacy to pick up any prescriptions that may be necessary on the way home. Depending on the kind of surgery, the patient might need your help with physical tasks such as siting, standing, walking up and down stairs, bathing, or using the bathroom. You can also help provide assistance in daily tasks that the patient usually manages, such as cooking, cleaning, taking care of pets, shopping, and laundry.

As a caregiver, keeping track of appointments with a physical therapist or doctor and providing transportation to and from those appointments until the patient is permitted to drive again can be very helpful. Communicate with the healthcare team to keep them updated about the patient’s progress—particularly if you notice unexpected changes or have concerns.

As the patient recovers and requires less assistance, you can still offer to help with daily needs. Ask if she or he needs you to pick up prescriptions or cook a meal for the family. The role of caregiver can be challenging and require a significant time commitment, but it is sure to be a meaningful experience helping your loved one regain strength and return to enjoying daily activities.

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