As you know, a liver transplant is a major operation and can be painful for the person undergoing it. Being a caretaker it is not easy to see your loved one bearing that severe pain and trauma. It is a very sensitive responsibility taking care of the patient who has just undergone this surgery. While the medical team will give you specific instructions regarding the patient care, here are some important points you can refer to whenever you have any trouble.
Although the patient is discharged within 1 or 2 weeks after the liver transplant surgery, it takes few months for a complete recovery of the patient. Therefore, a strong supportive network is essential for an early recovery after the surgery.
Few things you need to know being a caretaker
- After the surgery, the patient will be in the ICU for a few days under the care of the nurses.
- Pain relievers are given to mitigate pain associated with surgery. A ventilator is fitted to assist in breathing. Tubes to provide nutrients and fluids will be inserted into the stomach. Catheters may also be fixed to drain the fluids.
- After a few days, the patient is sent to the general ward and kept for about 2 weeks or more and then discharged. A complete recovery may take around 3 months to one year depending on the patient’s health status.
What you should do as a caretaker?
You as a caretaker may assist the patient in the following aspects:
Follow up visits
Initially after the surgery, the patient should be brought to the hospital at least once or twice every week. However, after few weeks or months, the number of visits will be less frequent. During these follow-up visits the patient is monitored to check for the success of the transplant surgery.
You need to help the patient with the transportation to the hospital and back home, as mobility can be a bit difficult in the initial days. If the patient needs to travel anywhere, it is better you be available to take them to the destiny and back home.
List out the items
The medical team may tell you a list of special items which need to be used during the caring period. Make a note of these things so that you can purchase the items currently unavailable with you.
Prepare a proper schedule to prevent skipping of either medications or food and to avoid any confusion with the personal care of the patient. Take utmost care to give the right medicine at the right time every day and keep track records of every action served to the patient.
You may also schedule appointments for the visitors who want to see the patient. This can prevent crowds near the patient who has the risk of infection and difficulty in breathing.
Make them eat and drink better
After the surgery, the patient needs more of proteins which are the building blocks of the human body. Prepare more of those delicious protein based meals. Meat, fish, eggs, yogurt, beans, tofu, can form the best part of such meal.
Faster healing from the surgery needs a check on fatty foods, processed carbohydrates, sugar-filled drinks, and snacks. Cook unrefined carbohydrates, let the patient snack on fruits and drink more of water. Fruits such as apples, berries, prunes and citrus fruits are good for the liver.
Physical and emotional support
Support the patient during mobility for physical activities, and activities of daily living. Encourage the patient if he/she is reluctant or is unable to move.
The patient must have undergone a lot of emotional stress during and after the procedure. Talk to them, listen to their feelings and motivate them by talking about their happy moments. If the patient needs any financial help in managing the related queries, you may do so if you are financially sound.
Monitor the patient
Monitor the patient for any abnormalities in the blood pressure and temperature and chart the deviations (do this at regular intervals i.e. at fixed time every day). This chart can be brought to the notice of the doctor during the follow-up visits. Also, check for frequency of bowel movements. Report to the doctor if you notice any change in the color of the stools and its frequency.
Immunosuppressants given to the patient during the surgery can make the patient more prone to the attacks of infection. Learn the signs and symptoms of infection. This is essential because the patient may not be in a situation to recognize them. For a successful and early recovery from the surgery, avoiding infections takes priority.
Cleaning the surgical site thoroughly can help avoid infections. If there are any tubes fitted to the body, clean them as instructed by the health care team. Do not put pressure nor hurt the incision area while cleaning. Get the patient’s room cleaned thoroughly with disinfectants to lower the chances of infection. Visitors should be asked to wash their hands thoroughly with disinfectants to prevent the patient from getting infected.
Take the patient immediately to a local hospital if you find any signs of illness as it can lead to the development of sepsis very rapidly.
Self-care is equally important
Pay attention to your own physical and mental health. Unless you are free from anxiety and emotional disturbance, you may not be in a position to offer proper service to the patient.
Keep in constant touch with the medical team who can provide you with the relevant information and support you by giving necessary advice.
Medications, on one hand, can help in recovery. However, they may not serve to provide that emotional support to the patient who underwent a liver transplant. As a caretaker, you can do it for your beloved one’s who is looking for a sympathetic ear and supportive hands. The patient feels less stress when a family member is caring during and after the surgery. And it is your job to comfort him/her for an early recovery.