Home Preparation Before Having a Total Knee Replacement: Preparing Your Home for Recovery After Surgery

Welcome to our guide on preparing your home for a successful recovery following a total knee replacement. The journey to a full recovery begins well before the actual surgery, with the steps you take to ensure your home is a safe, accessible, and comfortable healing environment.

In this article, I will provide you with practical tips and thoughtful strategies I have learned, as an orthopedic physical therapist rehabilitating hundreds of total knee recipients in their homes immediately after surgery.

These tips and strategies help reduce the risk of complications and promote a smooth transition back to everyday life, post-surgery. Let’s explore how you can optimize your living space to support your wellness and rehabilitation journey.

Preparing Your Home for a Total Knee Replacement Surgery

When you’re preparing for surgery, it’s not just the medical checklist that requires your attention. Getting your home ready before knee replacement surgery can significantly smooth your recovery journey. Total knee replacement, a type of joint replacement surgery, necessitates careful planning to make your post-operative period as comfortable as possible.

To prepare for knee replacement surgery, there are several steps you should follow to ensure your living space is safe, convenient, and conducive to healing.

Firstly, you should declutter your home to create clear pathways. Before surgery, free up space to navigate with a walker or crutches, reducing the risk of accidents is paramount. Eliminate rugs and cords that could cause trips or falls.

Think about turning a room on the first floor into a temporary bedroom if you have typically slept upstairs. This preparation can minimize the need to navigate stairs after your joint replacement surgery.

If you are on a walker and need to access the second story of your home, I advise my patients to have a walker for upstairs and a walker for downstairs.
Walkers are dangerous on a staircase.

Read my article: Stairs After Total Hip Replacement: A Physical Therapy Guide
Even though it was written for total hip replacements, the same advice applies to total knee replacements.

Descend Stairs THR Cane Banister Watermarked 200707 1

Furthermore, you should consider installing safety features like grab bars in the bathroom and handrails on staircases well before surgery. Non-slip mats in the shower or tub can also prevent falls.
Grab bars do not need to make your bathroom look like a handicapped bathroom; choose a decorative grab bar (Amazon link)
They come in right and left, so be sure to order the correct direction for your shower.

Grab Bar Decorative scaled
This is the decorative grab bar in my bathroom.

It’s also wise to think about seat raisers or 3-in-1 commode chair for use in both the shower as a shower bench and to act as a toilet seat raiser for the toilet to make sitting down and standing up less taxing for your new knee. These small changes to your home can significantly aid in the days and weeks after surgery when your mobility is compromised.
Ask your surgeon for a prescription for this device, and your insurance carrier may approve it at no cost to you.

3 1 commode chair in shower
3-in-1 commode chair.
Can be used as a raised toilet seat, shower chair, or bedside commode.

To make your post-surgery life easier, position regularly used items within easy reach. Before surgery, move frequently used cooking utensils and food to lower shelves. This planning minimizes the need to stretch or bend down, which can be challenging after surgery.

Additionally, prepare for surgery recovery by setting up a ‘recovery station’, a comfortable chair with support, space for medication, water, a phone, and items to pass time like books or a remote control.

Almost 100% of my total knee replacement patients have a recliner chair, and it becomes the most comfortable place in the home after their surgery, but all recliner chairs are not equal.
Read my article: Can I Sit In A Recliner After Knee Replacement? A PT’s Advice

If you don’t already have a recliner chair, these recliners meet my approval. (Amazon links).
Standard Recliner Chair by Ashley
Lift-Assist Recliner Chair by Ashley

Certain tools and equipment might also be necessary to have in your home for a smooth recovery.
For instance, having a grabber tool to pick up items from the floor or high shelves will help prevent unnecessary strain on your new joint.
Investing in a good shoe horn with a long handle can also assist you since tying shoelaces might be difficult right after surgery.
(Amazon links).

I also recommend my patients take their blood pressure regularly after surgery. In my experience, my patient’s blood pressure fluctuates significantly after total knee surgery, and frequently need to modify their blood pressure medications.

My referring surgeons require me to call them if, upon my arrival for home therapy, the patient’s blood pressure is greater than 160/100.
Sometimes they suggest additional doses of the blood pressure medication(s), sometimes they recommend drinking 8 oz of water, which surprisingly, can be very effective.
Regardless, discontinuing the rehabilitation exercises and walking are delayed until the patient’s blood pressure is below 160/80.

The blood pressure monitor I (and many healthcare providers) use is the Omron Blood Pressure Monitor. (Amazon link).

I recommend all my total knee patients purchase a large multi-compartment pill box

Even if my patient was not taking any medications prior to surgery, they will be taking multiple medications multiple times per day.
Most of these prescribed post-surgical medications will cause a loss of concentration, and in my experience, the patient frequently can’t remember if they took the medication at the time the medication was scheduled to be taken.

A pill box that meets most of my patients’ needs is this seven-day pill organizer with multiple compartments for each day. (Amazon affiliate).

I also suggest my patient label each day’s compartment with the time that compartment’s medication needs to be taken.
A labeler that I use is the DYMO 160 (Amazon link).

Labeler DYMO
The labeler that I use.

In terms of housekeeping, do as much as possible before surgery. This strategy means stocking up on groceries, filling prescriptions, and completing chores that might be too strenuous to handle during recovery. Having meals prepared and frozen can also alleviate the need to cook while you’re focusing on your health.

I find my total knee replacement patients have much more loss of balance after surgery than my total hip replacement patients, but with both of them, I use a gait belt to prevent a possible fall.
I recommend the patient’s caregiver have a gait belt as a safety precaution for both the patient and the caregiver. (Amazon link).

Maintenance scaled

When you’re preparing for surgery, consider setting up assistance from family or friends in advance. Post-operative care is crucial for your recovery, and simple tasks like laundry or pet care can become overwhelming. Don’t hesitate to ask for help; having support can make a huge difference in your healing process.

Lastly, arranging your follow-up care and physical therapy appointments before surgery can keep you on track for a smooth rehabilitation.
The surgeons I work with coordinate the patient’s home health physical therapist through the discharge nurse as part of their discharge orders.
If you have a specific physical therapist who does home health, be sure to tell your surgeon so they can include that in their discharge orders.

Home physical therapy is covered by Medicare (and most insurance carriers) as part of inpatient care and should be covered 100%.
Outpatient physical therapy is covered as outpatient care, and insurance will require co-pays and possibly a deductible, and it will have a dollar amount of coverage limit.

The moral of this story is, don’t skip home physical therapy and go directly to outpatient therapy.
Doing so will result in more money coming out of your pocket and exhausting your benefits before you are ready to continue rehabilitation on your own.

Ensuring you have a clear plan for the return to optimal health is part of getting your home for recovery in order. Having a designed space where health and recuperation are prioritized makes the recovery not only possible but perhaps quicker and with fewer complications.

Being thorough when preparing your home for a total knee replacement surgery can have a significant impact on your recovery. Making your home safe, accessible, and ready for your return from the hospital will allow you to concentrate fully on regaining strength and mobility. Taking proactive steps to make your home a sanctuary of healing will lay the groundwork for a successful recovery and return to everyday life.

Essential Medical Preparations Before Knee Surgery

As you prepare to undergo total knee replacement surgery, it’s crucial to focus not only on your home environment but also on essential medical preparations. Knee surgeries such as these require thorough patient education to ensure a smooth transition from the hospital to home care. Prior to your replacement surgery, you should familiarize yourself with what to expect during the recovery process, which will allow you to focus on healing. Let’s discuss the vital steps that need to be addressed before you have your surgery.

Ensuring that you’ve completed all necessary medical preparations prior to your total knee replacement can significantly impact your comfort and recovery trajectory. To commence, it’s beneficial to arrange a preoperative appointment with your surgeon to discuss the details of your upcoming knee replacement. This session provides an opportunity for you to ask questions and understand the risks and benefits associated with your knee surgery. It’s within these sessions that crucial elements of patient education take place, helping you become an active participant in your care plan.

One key component before scheduling your replacement surgery is to undergo a comprehensive physical examination. This assessment is vital to confirm your fitness for knee replacement surgery and to identify any potential medical issues that could complicate the procedure or your recovery. Your medical team will also provide you with instructions regarding medications and fasting before the surgery. 

Compliance with these instructions is crucial for reducing the risks associated with surgery. Additionally, it’s often advised that you cease certain medications that may affect blood clotting, a significant consideration for patients preparing for knee replacement surgery.

Be sure to clarify with your surgeon if they will be in charge of prescribing more pain medication after discharge or whether post-discharge medication prescriptions will be the responsibility of your primary care physician.

I have seen far too many patients being discharged at the end of the week without enough medications to carry them into the next week.
It becomes a real task at that point during the weekend to contact the surgeon or the primary care physician to get the necessary pain medication prescription.

In my experience, a pharmacist will not accept a fax or a copy of a prescription; it requires the ORIGINAl prescription!

Considering rehabilitation is an integral part of recovery, deciding where you will undergo physical therapy post-surgery is another important step. Whether you’ll receive care at home or require outpatient services, determining this before your knee replacement surgery can help in organizing your post-operative care seamlessly.

Furthermore, in the lead-up to knee surgery, it’s advisable to maximize your health for better surgical outcomes. This includes managing chronic conditions effectively, optimizing nutrition, and if recommended by your healthcare provider, engaging in pre-surgery exercises to strengthen the muscles around your knee.
Read my article: Best Exercises To PREPARE For Total Knee Surgery: (The CORRECT Ones!)

Arranging your transportation home from the hospital and to follow-up appointments is also part of your pre-surgery checklist. Given that driving won’t be an option immediately following your knee replacement surgery, it’s essential to coordinate with family or friends for assistance.

Additionally, preparing your living space, as mentioned previously in “Preparing Your Home for a Total Knee Replacement Surgery”, is just as important for your safety and comfort. By ensuring your home is ready for your return post-knee replacement, you position yourself for a more conducive recovery environment.

Detailed and careful medical preparations prior to your total knee replacement are just as vital as the physical modifications to your living space. By attending pre-surgery consultations, adhering to medical advice, and arranging for post-surgery care and transport, you’re taking proactive steps towards a successful recovery.

Remember, the goal is to alleviate pain and restore function to your knee, and these preparatory measures play a substantial role in helping you achieve the best possible outcomes from your surgery. Keep these considerations in mind as you get ready for this significant step towards improving your quality of life.

Setting Up Your Recovery Space at Home After Knee Replacement Surgery

When preparing for surgery, specifically a total knee replacement, it is important to consider how your home environment will cater to your recovery needs. After knee replacement surgery, you’ll be taking steps towards regaining your mobility, and ensuring that your recovery space at home is safe and efficient is a significant part of that journey. After surgery, the patient’s comfort and ease of movement should be the top priority, with everything needed within easy reach.

First and foremost, pain management will be at the forefront of your recovery after knee replacement surgery. It’s essential to create an environment that not only promotes healing but also reduces the risk of falls and unnecessary strain on your new knee.

For this reason, before having knee replacement surgery, identify a comfortable and supportive chair that will serve as your primary seating area. A chair with arms will be crucial, as it provides support when sitting down and standing up, a frequent activity after surgery.

THR Post Stand from recliner chair cropped watermarked

Typically, after such operations, orthopedic specialists suggest that a single-floor living arrangement is best, if possible. Stairs can be quite a challenge after knee surgery, and staying on one floor minimizes the risk of injury. If your bedroom is not on the main floor, consider setting up a temporary sleeping location to prevent navigating stairs for the first few weeks of recovery.

One of the most important locations in your home to prepare is the bathroom. Installing grab bars can provide stability and support. When contemplating the locations for grab bars, place them near the toilet and in the shower.

Speaking of the shower, including a shower chair in your post-surgery Home preparations can prove to be quite beneficial. A shower chair helps in avoiding fatigue and provides a safe space to maintain personal hygiene, which can be a challenging task while recovering from knee surgery. With a shower chair, you can take care of personal needs independently, marking an important aspect of your recovery after surgery.

Read my prior comments about this under the heading “Preparing Your Home for a Total Knee Replacement Surgery”.
Read my wife’s article: Showering After a Total Knee Replacement: An OT’s Recommendations

You’ll also need to remove unnecessary clutter from the floor, ensuring there are no hazards that could lead to falls or stumbles as you recover from knee surgery. Wide, clear paths that allow for the passage of a walker or crutches are necessary to prepare for taking those initial steps after replacement surgery. Securing rugs and ensuring they won’t slip is another key point in preparing your home for a patient recovering from replacement surgery.

As a patient, you’ll also need to consider access to essential items. Before having knee replacement surgery, rearrange commonly used items to waist-level locations. This way, you’ll avoid the need for stooping or reaching high places, which could compromise your knee’s stability after surgery.

It’s also important to have a comfortable bed that’s not too low or too high, which could make getting in and out of bed more difficult after knee replacement surgery.

The path to recovery after knee replacement surgery can indeed take patience and time. However, with your home properly prepared, taking each day at a time becomes less daunting. The role of a recovery space at home plays a pivotal part in your healing process. Remember, the main focus after knee surgery is to provide a safe and conducive environment for recovery, enabling the patient to find peace, rest, and rehabilitation.

While preparing for surgery, remember that the outcome of your total knee replacement is not just in the hands of your surgeon but also in how well you prepare your home. By incorporating these preparations, you can enhance the recovery space and set yourself up for success, making your journey after knee surgery smoother and more comfortable.

Read my other articles about Total Knee Replacement

Q: Why do I need to declutter my home before total knee replacement surgery?
A: Decluttering your home creates clear pathways for safe navigation with mobility aids, such as walkers or crutches, after surgery. It reduces the risk of accidents by eliminating trip hazards like rugs and cords, thus aiding in the prevention of falls and potential complications during your recovery period.

Q: What kind of safety features should I install at home for post-knee replacement surgery recovery?
A: Consider installing handrails in the bathroom and along staircases to provide stability and support as you move around. Adding non-slip mats in the shower or tub can help prevent slips, and seat raisers for the toilet can facilitate sitting down and standing up, decreasing the strain on your new knee.

Q: What is a ‘recovery station’ and how does it help after knee replacement surgery?
A: A ‘recovery station’ is a designated area in your home, preferably with a comfortable chair that has support, where essential items like medication, water, a phone, and entertainment options are within easy reach. It helps to minimize movement and ensures that everything you need frequently is readily accessible to avoid putting unnecessary stress on your knee.

Q: Why should I arrange assistance from family or friends post-surgery?
A: After knee replacement surgery, daily tasks such as laundry, pet care, and even simple movements can become challenging. Having a support network of family or friends can alleviate these burdens, allowing you to focus on your recovery and rehabilitation without worrying about household responsibilities.

Q: What pre-surgery medical preparations are important for a successful knee replacement recovery?
A: It is vital to have a preoperative appointment with your surgeon for patient education and to discuss the details of your knee replacement. Completing a physical examination to confirm your fitness for surgery, adhering to medication instructions, and ceasing the use of certain medications that may affect blood clotting are all part of essential medical preparations. Additionally, arranging for post-surgery physical therapy and transportation home from the hospital is important for a smooth and safe recovery process.

Dr. Robert Donaldson

Dr. Donaldson is dually licensed; physical therapy in 1975 and doctor of chiropractic in 1995. He held credentials of Orthopedic Clinical Specialist in physical therapy for 20 years, QME in California, and taught at USC. He owns and operates an orthopedic physical therapy practice. See "About Me" page.

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