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Tips to Help Seniors and Their Caregivers
Prepare for Surgery

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3.  Make sure to prepare for your preoperative conversation with your physician
Once you’ve made the decision to undergo a surgical procedure, your physician will schedule a preoperative meeting to make sure the entire procedure is both as safe and as comfortable for you as possible. You will likely discuss the following with your physician at that time:

  • Medical history, including past experiences with depression
  • Any known allergies
  • Dietary restrictions you will need to be aware of leading up to the procedure
  • Lab tests and diagnostic studies you will undergo in preparation for surgery
  • Type of anesthesia that will be administered during the procedure
  • Potential complications associated with the procedure – both physical and mental
  • Status of family and friend support network leading up to, during and after surgery
  • Any concerns or anxieties you might have about the procedure

4.  Provide your physician with a comprehensive list of medications and substances you take regularly
To help identify those substances that may affect your anesthesia and surgery, it is very important that you provide your physician with a complete list of all medications, including prescription, over-the-counter or natural. Specifically, sleeping pills, anxiety medications and alcohol withdrawal have been shown to increase the risk of postoperative complications in the elderly, such as delirium. In order to be prepared, fill out, print and carry a medication record with you when you visit your physician. The form will help you keep track of your personal medical history, prescriptions, allergies, emergency contacts and the information of your primary and secondary physicians.

5.  Inform yourself about the type of anesthetic that will be used during surgery and its potential physical and mental effects
Ask your anesthesiologist about the type of anesthesia that will be used during your procedure – general, regional or local, as well as potential effects of the medication.

6.  Reach out to family and friends for support and remember that caregivers can help you deal with surgical complications
Surgery can be an overwhelming experience, and family and friends can be surprisingly helpful. You may also need help during the recovery period, and your support network will be essential during that time. Caregivers can help make you feel as comfortable as possible following surgery by:

  • Ensuring your eyeglasses, hearing aid, etc. will be made available as soon as possible following the procedure
  • Placing a calendar in your room so you know what day of the week it is
  • Putting photos of your family in your room
  • Requesting a recovery room with a window, if possible, so you know if it is day or night

7.  Your caregivers should help you watch for cognitive problems after surgery
After a successful surgical outcome, it is easy to fall back into a daily routine and forget to watch out for post-surgical complications, which may include cognitive problems, or issues with mental function. To help prevent cognitive problems, caregivers are encouraged to do the following:

  • Request that your physician conducts a cognitive exam during your preoperative interview
  • This will serve as a baseline for your physician to evaluate your mental function after surgery
  • Monitor your physical and mental activity closely following surgery to prevent complications
  • Ensure you avoid taking drugs with long-acting central nervous system effects, such as benzodiazepines, which are frequently used to treat insomnia, anxiety, seizures and muscle spasms

Please visit to learn more about geriatric anesthesia.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists
Anesthesiologists: Physicians providing the lifeline of modern medicine. Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists is an educational, research and scientific association with 43,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology and improve the care of the patient.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists Web site at For patient information, visit


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