A Guide to Good Health

What To Expect If Your Elderly Loved One Needs Open Heart Surgery

If you have an elderly loved one like a parent or grandparent that is in need of open heart surgery, you may find yourself wondering what you can expect from the process, from getting ready for the procedure all the way to recovery. Knowing more about some of the steps to the open heart surgery process can help you to feel more prepared when the day of surgery arrives. 

They Should Do Deep Breathing Exercises Before Surgery

When a person has open heart surgery, there is a risk after the fact of having lung complications or even of developing pneumonia. However, when patients are encouraged and instructed to do deep breathing exercises before surgery, this risk goes down significantly. 

If the doctor does not bring up these exercises, make sure you or your loved one ask about them. Your loved one can be given an incentive spirometer. This device has a tube that they will breath into and it measures the amount of air expelled from the lungs with each breath.

The doctor will give your loved one a level they should reach with each breath so that they can practice this deep breathing technique prior to surgery. They will also likely be asked to continue this practice after surgery to keep the lungs safe and clear. 

Physical Therapy May Be Recommended Before and After Surgery

Another factor to keep in mind is that when a person has open heart surgery, they will need physical therapy. Physical therapy is a major part of the aftercare process of surgery but may also be part of the preoperative process. 

This can include aerobic exercise, additional deep breathing exercises, and more. Before surgery, physical therapy will focus on both instilling good habits in your loved one's physical activity routine and on getting their body ready for surgery. After surgery, recovery and developing lifelong healthy habits will be the goals. 

Recovery Is Slow

Open heart surgery is a major procedure, especially for someone that is older. Because of this, you need to go in with the mindset that they will not necessarily bounce back to their old selves right away.

The incision itself will take quite a while to heal, but also your loved one's energy levels and endurance will need to be built back up over time. Be patient and encouraging with them as they go through this process. 

Now that you know some of the things to expect when your elderly loved one needs open heart surgery, you can be better prepared for the process going forward.  

For more information about how your loved one can prepare for and recover from a major heart surgery, contact a physical therapy provider near you.