The recovery period after total knee replacement surgery is crucial to the success of your procedure. The average length of a hospital stay after a total knee replacement is three to four days. You’ll be busy resting up, taking care of your knee, and starting your physical therapy. You shouldn’t use your time in the hospital to plan all of your recovery details. Your home should be prepared for recovery well before surgery. Here are five tips to help you get ready. Then all you have to do is come home and relax.

1. Declutter

When it comes to knee surgery recovery, space in your home is key to safety. Look around your home and envision enough space for a walker to fit. You may even want to use a measuring tape to make sure there are at least 3 feet of space for you to walk though.

To make space, consider:

  • moving furniture
  • removing rugs
  • placing electrical cords and wires out of the way
  • boxing up anything you don’t need (like toys, knickknacks, or small tables)

The time leading up to your surgery is also your opportunity to clean your home. Dusting, vacuuming, and mopping are off-limits after a knee replacement.

Keep reading: Exercises and stretches to do after a total knee replacement surgery »

2. Install fall prevention equipment

While you won’t be walking much right after your knee surgery, it’s inevitable that you’ll need to move around your house at some point. A loss of balance and a need for space makes people who have recently had total knee replacement prone to falls. Decluttering your home is just one way to prevent falls. Other preventive measures include:

  • installing hand rails (especially in the bathtub or shower)
  • using a raised toilet seat
  • adding a handrail in your shower and next to your toilet
  • covering outside steps with ramps
  • adding texture to slippery floors
  • wearing nonskid socks
  • using a walking device at all times until you’re more stable
  • installing nightlights

3. Prepare a recovery area

Due to mobility limitations, you will likely do a lot of sitting during the first few weeks after your return from the hospital. Designate a recovery area (usually the living room) with a sturdy chair to relax in. The National Institute on Aging recommends one that is between 18 and 20 inches tall. Your chair should also have arms and a solid back so you don’t fall. A recliner is a good choice because you can elevate your legs. Place a sturdy footstool in front of your chair if you don’t have a recliner.

Your recovery area should also contain items within arm’s reach to limit the amount of times you have to get up. Consider having the following items on hand near your chair:

  • eyeglasses
  • phone/cellphone (and charger)
  • television remote
  • tablet
  • books
  • tissues
  • medications
  • bottles of water
  • snacks

4. Move your sleeping quarters

Sleep is essential to surgery recovery, but you might need to make some adjustments. Stairs are sometimes tough to manage after your knee surgery. You might consider converting a main floor space into a temporary bedroom to limit having to walk up the stairs.

5. Ask for help

Knee surgery makes the ability to move and do normal activities difficult. Consider asking a friend or loved one to stay with you during the initial recovery period, or arrange for in-home care. Even if you live with a spouse or other family member, having an extra pair of hands available to help is always a good idea. Arrange for assistance with:

  • changing bandages
  • monitoring your condition post-surgery
  • bathing
  • getting dressed
  • household chores
  • cooking meals
  • grocery shopping
  • paying bills and other related tasks
  • navigating stairs

The more help you have, the quicker and more successful your recovery will likely be. Ask for help in advance and, if they’ll be staying with you, make sure you have arranged a place for them to stay before you enter surgery. Since you won’t be able to drive for a few months after knee surgery, you may want to have a friend on hand in case you need to be driven somewhere.

The takeaway

According to the Arthritis Foundation, only 41 percent of people who had undergone joint surgery and were questioned in a survey said their homes were prepared for recovery. Other problems could arise without the proper preparation, including increased risk of infection, depression, and anxiety. Be sure to talk to your doctor about all of your post-op recovery needs to make sure you haven’t missed anything. You can never prepare too much. The better order your home is in, the greater the likelihood of a smooth knee surgery recovery.