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On the Road to Recovery

Recovering from a serious illness or surgery is hard work. You may need help doing some things that you used to take for granted, such as walking, bathing, getting dressed, or preparing meals. Or, you may have to make lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, starting to exercise, or quitting smoking.

Although you can get support from others, including doctors, friends, and family, you play the biggest role in your own recovery. This means that to reach your recovery goals, you need to take an active role in the recovery process.

Your recovery plan

Before you leave the hospital, you should talk with your health care team about your recovery plan. Depending on your condition, your recovery plan may include follow-up appointments with your doctor, therapy, medicines, a special diet, or exercises.

Here are some points you might discuss:

  • Ask what to expect in the weeks and months ahead. How long should your recovery take?

  • Find out what care you will need at home. For example, will you need to have your bandages changed or your blood pressure monitored?

  • Ask if there are any activities that you need to avoid, such as driving or climbing stairs.

  • If you need to use any medical equipment, make sure that you understand how to use it and where to get it.

  • Ask if you need a physical therapy evaluation.

  • If you need to do exercises, make sure that you know how to do them and how often to do them.

  • Ask about any new medicines you need to take and the possible side effects.

  • Ask if you need to follow a special diet.

  • Ask when you will need to make appointments for follow-up care.

  • Let your doctor know how your recovery is going. Keeping your doctor informed will help him or her make decisions about your care.

Dealing with emotions

Accidents, disease, or major surgery can make you feel angry, anxious, frustrated, or depressed. All of these feelings are normal. Although it may be hard for you to share these feelings, try talking with a family member or trusted friend. You may find that it helps to talk about how you feel. You may also want to join a support group.

Set goals

Recovery can take a long time. Setting goals for yourself—no matter how small—can help you measure improvement. Talk with your doctor about what kind of goals to set. Make sure that the goals are realistic. It may help to break them down into smaller goals. For example, if one of your goals is to exercise, you might start by walking around your yard.

Look ahead

You can stay on the road to recovery by following your recovery plan, having regular checkups, and communicating openly with your doctor. Prevention is also a key to staying healthy. Adopting healthier lifestyle habits can help decrease your risk of a relapse and help prevent other illnesses, too.