Happy new year to you and yours! 

We’re kicking off the year by shining a light on excellent tips from an excellent reporter in our field.

Judith Graham at Kaiser Health News has covered the health care “beat” for 30+ years.

Two of her most recent columns are packed with tips on surgery for older adults, but helpful no matter what your age. It’s a topic that makes a lot of us nervous – with good reason!

As we age, the risks in surgery go up and it’s hard to know how to weigh those risks against potential rewards.

To help you evaluate, Judith suggests you ask your doctor …

What’s the goal of this surgery? “How is this surgery going to make things better for me? How will it impact my daily life?”

If things go well, what can I expect?
“What is the best-case scenario for this surgery and my daily life afterward for the next several months?”

What can I expect if things don’t go well in this surgery?
What is the worst-case scenario and my daily life afterward?”

Given my health, age, and physical abilities, what’s the most likely outcome? “Can you give me a few scenarios?”

What are the alternatives to surgery?
Is ‘watchful waiting’ a good option for me?”

What can I do to prepare myself for surgery?
“How can I help decrease complications – in the hospital, or at home during recovery?”

What will my recovery look like?
What will I feel/go through in the hospital? Rehab needed? What will I need at home?”

Final suggestions from our experience: 

  • Consider only surgeons who’ve done thousands of the surgery you’re considering. Expertise matters!
  • Bring someone with you to every consultation with a doctor. An extra pair of ears will help ensure no detail is missed. Ask them to take notes for you. (You will be amazed by how much those notes will help you later.)
  • Prepare for support after your hospital stay. No one is “100%” after discharge. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Pick up more safe surgery tips at The Care Partner Project.

Download our checklists to take with you to meetings with doctors.
Good topics to cover at your fingertips.