Whether you are having a minor non-invasive surgical procedure or a major surgery it is important to discuss a variety of details with your family.
From the basics of “Can you drive me home from the hospital?” to your medical and financial wishes, here is a list to guide you in your preparations.
1. Basic logistics
Who will be with you while preparing for the procedure? Who will come into the recovery room? Who will be your emergency contact? Who will drive you home?
2. Discuss the intent of the procedure with your family.
A gallbladder removal is fairly straight forward. A coronary artery bypass is much more complicated. If undergoing an amputation make sure those closest to you know which limb. Ask your surgeon to explain the procedure to a family member in person or over the telephone.
3. Discuss the expected recovery.
Will you require pain medication or antibiotics when you go home? Will rehabilitation be required? Will you need assistive equipment like a walker?
These questions allow your family to be involved with discharge planning at the hospital and to recognize if something is missing in your plan of care.
4. Will a family member be needed to care for you for an extended length of time?
Let them know ahead of time so that they can request leave from their employer who may require FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) paperwork that will need to be signed by the physician.
5. Do you care for another?
It is important to have a plan in place for the care of your children, spouse, parents, or whomever you care for in the event that you are not able to return to those responsibilities as soon as expected.
6. Discuss possible complications.
Are you at risk because of other medical diagnoses like diabetes or heart problems? Hospitals will ask for a variety of (optional) legal paperwork that is highly advisable to have in place prior to the procedure.
a. An Advanced Directive allows you to legally document what you would like done for you if you cannot speak or make decisions, from blood transfusion to end-of-life decisions.
Ideally family members are aware of your choices and have a copy of your documents. This helps to avoid confusion if complications were to occur.
b. A Living Will outlines your wishes if you are permanently unconscious or dying. You can accept or refuse certain treatments. Treatments such as dialysis, CPR, tube feeding, and organ and tissue donation can be addressed in this document.
c. A Power of Attorney for Health Care legally documents the person you allow to make healthcare decisions for you if you are incapable. This is separate from a Power of Attorney for Finance.
d. NOTE that Advanced Directives require the signature of a witness, while Living Wills and Power of Attorneys must be notarized.
By Anna K. Coss RN, BSN, MSN
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