How to Plan for After-Surgery Home Care: Costs, Tips, and Guidance


Many surgeries often require special after-surgery care, also called postoperative care. With advances in telemedicine and monitoring, it’s become more common to receive this care at home. In fact, at least 50% of patients prefer to receive postoperative care at home, according to research published in mHealth.

After-surgery care at home can help your loved one heal and recover properly in the comfort and familiarity of their own home. Planning this care ahead of time is one of the most important things you can do to support an aging loved one who’s undergoing surgery. Read on to learn how.

Pay attention to preoperative and postoperative instructions

Every operation is different, so preoperative education and after-surgery care will often depend on the type of surgery taking place. In many cases, preoperative education has been known to improve postoperative outcomes, according to the Association of Anesthetists.

After the surgery but before your loved one is discharged from the hospital, you should receive a set of postoperative discharge instructions. These are very important to follow as they’ll provide guidance on what to expect after the surgery, such as the following:

  • What supplies and medications may be needed at home
  • Possible complications, such as reactions to anesthesia
  • Specific wound or incision care instructions
  • Any special dietary instructions to follow
  • Any specific exercises to perform
  • Any restrictions on their daily activities

You can also talk to hospital staff to find out if your loved one may be more at risk for developing certain complications than others, particularly if they have another pre-existing medical condition.

To help keep track of post-surgery instructions, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has developed a downloadable guide for self-care after leaving the hospital. A guide like this can help your loved one keep track of their own health and give them a sense of independence, even if someone else is responsible for their actual care.

Planning for post-surgery home care

Undergoing surgery of any kind can take a major toll on one’s health, especially in older adults. That said, your aging loved one will certainly require help after their procedure. To determine what activities will require assistance, consider who will be responsible for certain after-surgery tasks by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Who will transport my loved one to and from the initial appointment and any follow-up appointments?
  • Will home modifications be necessary, such as installing elevated toilets, shower seats, or handrails?
  • Who will refill and pick up prescriptions?
  • Who will manage and administer medications?
  • Will my loved one need help climbing stairs or moving around the house?
  • Will my loved one need assistance with dressing or undressing, bathing, or using the bathroom?
  • Who will grocery shop, cook, and prepare meals?
  • Who will provide companionship and entertainment while my loved one is recovering?
  • Will my loved one need 24-hour care?

If you’re overwhelmed by the above tasks or unable to care for your loved one on your own, professional in-home care can help alleviate stress and lighten your workload.

Nonmedical vs. medical in-home care after surgery

Having in-home help can be a godsend for family caregivers. Once you’ve had a conversation with hospital staff and read through the discharge instructions, you should be able to determine what type of in-home care your loved one will need: home care or home health care. Below is a breakdown of what these care types mean. Depending on the type or complexity of the surgery, your loved one may need a single type of care or a combination of both.

Home care

Hire a home care professional if your loved one needs nonmedical care. That means that their supportive after-surgery care won’t involve medical skills. While a home care aide cannot provide medical support, they may offer the following in-home services:

  • Medication reminders
  • Assistance with mobility
  • Light household chores, such as laundry and meal preparation
  • Transportation, including to grocery stores and medical appointments
  • Personal care, including help with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as dressing, bathing, and using the toilet
  • Companion care, which includes activities and socialization

When choosing a home care agency, be specific about the services you need to ensure you get connected with the proper type of care professional, as some states and insurance policies make a strong distinction between personal care and companion care.

Home health care

Also called clinical or skilled care, home health care is medical care provided by licensed professionals, such as a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse. Home health care is typically prescribed by a doctor to help with a senior’s short-term medical or nursing care as they recover from surgery. The services a home health professional provides can include the following:

  • Assistance with medication administration
  • Wound/incision care
  • Monitoring of vital signs and medical equipment
  • Expertise in certain health conditions

It’s important to note that there can sometimes be overlap with nonmedical care depending on the senior’s care plan or the agency you choose

Read: Home Care vs. Home Health Care: What’s the Difference?

Browse Our Free Senior Care Guides

Typical costs for post-surgery in-home care

The hourly and daily median costs of in-home care depend on a number of factors, including whether you hire home care, home health care, or 24-hour home care, as well as what state you live in. According to the most recent Genworth Financial Cost of Care report, the hourly median cost of nonmedical home care ranges from $26 to $27 per hour. 

Cost factors

Your location plays a role in how much you’ll pay for in-home care. For example, according to Genworth Financial, personal care services in the United States range from as low as $18.75 per hour in West Virginia to as high as $36.25 per hour in Minnesota. Costs for companion or homemaker care show a similar range of $18.50 per hour in West Virginia to $35.00 per hour in Minnesota.

The cost of 24-hour home care is more difficult to estimate because the provider’s services and hours worked can vary so much from caregiver to caregiver. However, the median cost is $19,656 per month. You can typically expect to pay between $120 and $200 for a flat-rate sleeping shift, which is about 12 hours in most cases. The rate may increase for 24-hour home health care because it’s provided by medical professionals.

How to decide what’s right for your loved one

At any point, consider talking with one of AgingCare’s Care Advisors for personalized guidance on how to hire in-home care, how much you can expect to pay, what services to expect from in-home care, and more, all at absolutely no cost to you or your family. You can also join the Caregiver Forum to connect with other family caregivers to find support and answers to your questions.

Reviewed by caregiving expert Carol Bradley Bursack.

The role of telemedicine in postoperative care (
Taking Care of Myself: A Guide for Leaving the Hospital (
The impact of pre-operative comprehensive geriatric assessment on postoperative outcomes in older patients undergoing scheduled surgery: A systematic review (
Genworth Cost of Care Survey Median Cost Data Tables (

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal, or financial advice or to create a professional relationship between AgingCare and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney, or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; AgingCare does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

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