Staying active will aid in recovery

The Seniors Health Network each month poses a question to health-care professionals. This month, Kathy McIntyre from the South Surrey White Rock Seniors Health Network, was asked:

I am a senior living in White Rock and I’m scheduled to have surgery at Peace Arch Hospital this spring. I understand from my physician that there will be an emphasis, during my recovery, on being active and moving more. Is this true? I thought you were supposed to rest after surgery?

Peace Arch Hospital, along with its staff and physicians, is totally committed to your best health and your speedy recovery, whether from surgery or from a medical illness.

It is a well-known and proven fact that, for most patients, resting quietly during your recovery can make you worse rather than better. For each day you spend in bed, with no physical activity, your length of stay in hospital increases.

It doesn’t take too many inactive days for you to “de-condition” to the point that your recovery and your ability to return to your ‘pre-sickness state’ is hampered.

Your physician will order your level of activity, but unless there is a very good reason for you not to be physically active, you’ll be encouraged and supported to deep breathe, cough, walk and move as much as you can tolerate.

This is definitely in your best interest! Remember that there will always be situations where you are not well enough to get up and move about, but as you improve, movement will definitely be encouraged.

“Back in the day” we kept patients in bed in our hospitals for way too long and did them no favours. Patients who had cataract surgery were usually in bed for seven to 10 days with sandbags at each side of their head to keep it immobile. Now cataracts are done and you’re in and out of the hospital in a couple of hours.

It’s the same with any major surgery; the goal is to get you moving as quickly as possible the day of your surgery so you don’t experience the risks to your health that staying in bed too long can bring.

In our community we have a “Healthy Communities” committee which is lead by the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation. We are fortunate to have a foundation committed to community wellness and to the prevention of illness and hospitalization (wherever possible).

One of the priorities of this committee is physical literacy, which has led to the creation of a “Move for Life” initiative. Move for Life captures all age groups from kids to seniors and its primary objective is to provide everyone with the competency, confidence and motivation to be active for life.

There are programs being delivered to school-age children both to assess and improve their physical literacy and there are programs for seniors with the same goals.

Peace Arch Hospital has engaged with the Move for Life program and will be giving its patients information when they are discharged from hospital so they, too, can improve their physical literacy. So, both during your hospital stay and when you are going home, you’ll be encouraged to “move more.”

Becoming more physically active as a senior can have a positive effect on your blood pressure, your heart rate, your blood sugar and your weight. Besides those benefits, seniors who are active and flexible are far less likely to fall and injure themselves. And if they happen to get sick or need surgery, they tend to get better more quickly. There are really no disadvantages to being active and being the best you can be.

Peace Arch Hospital staff and physicians wish you well with your surgery and your recovery and your expectations should definitely include an emphasis on moving more to the best of your ability, in order to return to being the best you!

Kathy McIntyre is the project manager at South Surrey-White Rock Health Network.

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