Special Considerations for Senior Hysterectomy Patients

You will find that – as a unique woman – you will have your own unique recovery experience. Being older in itself does not increase the risks during surgery and recovery. Studies show that hysterectomy is as safe for patients over 65 as for younger patients, although the hospital stay may be longer for older patients (5 days vs 2-3 days for younger patients). However, sometimes with age comes other health conditions which may increase the risk; such as diabetes, being overweight, heart disease, etc. Elderly people may be more at risk of developing complications from anesthesia such as cardiovascular or respiratory issues, so it’s important to discuss your health history with your anesthestist prior to your surgery. Ask your doctor about using a spirometer or doing breathing exercises post op to help prevent pneumonia, and how to avoid blood clots (DVT) or other post op complications.

In some respects, your recovery concerns may be very similar to younger women’s. Although you may not have children to care for during recovery, you may be caring for aging parents or your spouse. Many people continue to work or volunteer well past retirement age, so taking time off from your career may be a concern for you. And even though you are past child-bearing age, you may find parting with your uterus to be a difficult or emotional experience. Below are some tips to help:

  • Depending on the level of care your parents (or perhaps your spouse) need, make appropriate arrangements. This may mean preparing them some freezer meals ahead of time and having their neighbor check on them daily. Or it may mean having a health care service go to their home to help with personal care and medications. You may consider a cleaning service for them (or even yourself!) for a month or two. Have a friend or family member “on call” for emergencies and tape a list of phone numbers by your parents’ phone for their convenience.
  • Ask your doctor specifically how much time you need to recover post op. Depending on the type of hysterectomy, this time frame may vary. Generally the average time off work is 4-6 weeks. Plan to be towards the end of the spectrum and let your work make arrangements accordingly. If you provide daycare for your grandchildren be aware that you will have lifting (as well as other) restrictions for perhaps several months post op.
  • Prepare your home and your recovery spot. Think ahead about your specific health needs and how you may make your recovery easier. A grabber tool is excellent for picking things up from the floor. You may wish to put regularly used items (such as your coffee mug) on a lower shelf to avoid reaching. If your freezer is at the bottom of your fridge, organize it before your surgery so that your frozen meals are easily accessible at the top. If you live alone, arrange to have a friend or family member check on you regularly.
  • If you have mobility issues such as arthritis this may make it more difficult getting up and walking after your surgery, as well as getting in and out of bed. Do your best to prepare for this by having a cane or even a walker handy while you recover. You may find piles of pillows particularly helpful in getting comfortable in bed or in the recliner.
  • We each have our own personal feelings about our uterus. Some could assume that since you are past child-bearing age, your hysterectomy shouldn’t affect you emotionally. This may not be the case. You may feel angry or sad about your surgery. Hysterectomy involves an organ that can be deeply connected to your sense of womanhood. Your womb may have nurtured your child or you may feel betrayed by not being able to conceive. Whatever your feelings, they are yours and they are valid. If you are coping with grief, you may choose to talk to someone close to you, journal your feelings, or symbolically grieve your loss.

Remember, it’s your general overall health that determines your fitness for surgery. Age is only one of those considerations. If you are in good health, it may not matter if you are having your hysterectomy at age 30, 40, 50 or 60. Make a list and discuss your concerns with your doctor. Many senior women experience a “textbook” surgery and recovery.

This content was written by staff of HysterSisters.com by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support.  Reprinted with permission: Special Considerations for Senior Hysterectomy Patients

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