Without a doubt, some of the major heroes of the organ transplant procedure are the care partners. From changing bandages (in the early days), to helping manage medications, to attending multiple doctor visits — you are a key member of your loved one's transplant team.
Your role is vital to the success of your loved one's treatment and recovery, especially following the directions from your loved one's transplant team. If any part of their instruction is unclear or if you have any questions, pick up the phone and call. You will also want to learn as much as you can about transplant and what to expect in the years ahead. By understanding all you can, you can be strong for your loved one and a true resource for support.
Here are a few guidelines for care after surgery:
The impact of an organ transplant goes well beyond the bedside. It's a challenge of monitoring medications, working to help prevent rejection.
Start a medication schedule. Work on making sure your loved one takes his or her scheduled doses at the same time every day. Also, it's a good idea to connect the new schedule with a schedule that your loved one knows very well, such as always taking pills before brushing teeth, or right after a shower.
Use a pillbox to ensure that every dose of medication is taken every day, and fill it weekly.
Keep a medication list and/or medication schedule on the refrigerator and keep a copy with you at all times to ensure that your loved one does not miss a dose.
Watch your loved one's diet. Healthy eating is very important to good health. Be sure to talk to a dietitian about your loved one's specific nutritional needs. He or she may have to avoid certain foods while taking immunosuppressive medications. Your loved one may also have an increased appetite due to the steroids he or she may be taking, resulting in unwanted weight gain. A dietitian can help set up a diet plan that takes your loved one's unique needs and challenges into account.
Make sure that your loved one gets exactly the amount of exercise the doctor prescribes. And remember, exercise doesn't have to mean a mile-long jog. It can be as simple as a walk around the block, or dancing with friends.
Caring for a loved one with a chronic illness or special needs can be stressful. Don't lose sight of your own needs as you help your loved one.