When you first heard that the person in your care required surgery, there were probably a number of thoughts that ran through your mind. It is completely normal to have some nervousness and some worry attached to a pending surgery because there is always some uncertainty. Also, the waiting period prior to the surgery is typically the most challenging time emotionally for all involved.
The waiting period prior to the surgery is typically the most challenging time emotionally for all involved.
As a family caregiver, it can help to be prepared, control what you can control, and be aware of the process a typical patient goes through in the hospital when undergoing surgery.
Here are some tips to help family caregivers plan for the day of the surgery:
- Write down the location, date, and time of the surgery once it has been confirmed. Write down the time that you are expected to arrive at the hospital on the day of the surgery and monitor the weather forecast so that you can make appropriate arrangements to arrive on time.
- Make detailed notes about the eating and drinking restrictions that must be followed prior to the surgery. It is very important that the person adheres to these eating and drinking restrictions. Consult with the health care professional who provides the details about these restrictions if you have any questions or concerns about these restrictions.
- If you are driving to the hospital, be sure to note whether to bring the parking ticket into the hospital with you or leave it visible on the dashboard of the vehicle. Each hospital has a different parking payment system.
After arriving at the hospital, ask a volunteer or staff member for directions to the surgical registration area (or wherever you have been instructed to go on the day of the surgery).
The person in your care will be given an identification bracelet to wear. They will be asked to verify the information on the bracelet for accuracy. It is very important that this information is correct as it will be used for identification purposes throughout the hospital stay.
You will then be directed to the pre-operative area. It is here that the person in your care will be seen by several members of the surgical team.
- A pre-operative assessment will be done by a nurse. This usually includes a brief assessment and several health questions. An intravenous (IV) catheter may also be inserted into a vein at this time.
- The surgeon will verify that the appropriate paperwork is complete and answer any last minute questions or clarify any details about the surgery. The surgeon may also make pre-surgical markings on the area that will be operated on.
- The anesthesiologist will describe the anesthesia that will be provided throughout the surgery as well as any additional plans for pain control after surgery.
- The operating room nurse may ask some additional questions before accompanying the person to the operating room.
It is a good idea to notify the members of the surgical team if the person in your care has a tendency to become anxious or agitated when they are in new and unfamiliar settings.
You will be instructed about where to wait for the duration of the surgery. It is a good idea to leave a phone number if you have a cell phone in the event that you are unable to wait in the waiting room. Be sure to eat throughout the day and take care of your own health needs.
For you as a caregiver, the waiting time between preparing the person for surgery to arrival in the recovery room can feel like an eternity. Bring distractions such as books, magazines (these are not as available in hospital waiting rooms as they used to be!), crossword puzzles, knitting—whatever can distract you as you wait for updates about the person you are caring for.
When the surgery is complete, the person will be taken to the recovery room. Once they become more alert and awake, you will be notified by a staff member in the designated surgical waiting area and additional details will be provided about the next steps and what to expect.
*Please note that the sequence of events may vary depending on the circumstances and the hospital.
You might also be interested in our Elizz articles entitled Guide for Medication Management at Hospital Discharge and Transition of Care from Hospital to Home.
At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.