My mother is donating a kidney to my father. What should I know?

As the title indicates, next month my mother is donating a kidney to my father, who is in renal failure. We’ve known this was coming for a long time, since my father has had reduced renal function since he was a teenager.

Since they’re both going to be in surgery at the same time, they obviously won’t be able to do each other’s aftercare. I’m going to spend the first week after surgery with them, and my sister will be coming up for a week after that. If they still need care after that, we’ll see how it goes. We anticipate that my mother will be pretty functional by that point, since the donor surgery is now done laparoscopically.

My guess is that they will both be in the hospital for the first couple of days, and my father possibly for several days after that. So I’m likely going to be caring for some combination of hospitalized and home-care issues.

Any tips? Things I should know? Good foods to feed them? Things I should watch out for post-kidney surgery?

(Obviously, I’m going to be talking to their surgeons both before and after, and they are themselves both physicians, so we have an abundance of medical expertise on hand. I need more home-care tips.)

Thanks in advance Dopers, you’ve all given me plenty of good advice before!

How wonderful! No advice (no experience with this), just best wishes!

Don’t be surprised if mom seems to be doing much worse than dad.

Mom is healthy and having a surgery. She will feel sore, have pain she didn’t before, etc.

Dad is sick and having a surgery which will improve his condition. He may subjectively feel quite a bit better and surprisingly quickly.

I hope all goes well for them.

Forgive my ignorance, but how do they remove a kidney laparoscopically?

Here’s how.

Pretty cool. A lot better than it used to be.

Wow - it was the removal incision I was having trouble picturing. Very cool. I believe they used to have to damn near saw you in half to get to it.

Ask the nurse for some extra pairs of those socks with rubberized sole patterns. They’re great at home for preventing falls, too.

Encourage them to do as much as they can for themselves, within the limits of safety. While it’s tempting to do little things for them, like fetch the remote instead of letting them reach for it, it’s those little things which keep conditioning up and keep people feeling and acting independently.

Bring home absolutely everything in their hospital rooms that isn’t nailed down or obviously hospital property (bed linens and pillows are hospital property, sorry). Anything else put into the room that’s meant for only one person to use it - like the plastic basin, the soap, the little pitcher they bring ice water in, but also suture removal kits which come with nifty but “disposable” scissors and tweezers, excess band-aids and half rolls of tape…if it’s opened in there, it’s got to be thrown out when they leave, to prevent infection from one patient to another. Might as well take it and use it.

If either one is on Medicare, you can very likely get a home nurse to come in for a couple of weeks (usually a visit or two per week, unless someone is unstable) to teach you anything you’d like to know about caring for them and getting them better. (One must be “homebound” to Medicare standards for this benefit, but most older folks immediately post-op qualify for at least a short time.) If needed, the home nurse can also get you safety devices like grab bars in the shower, raised toilet seats, shower benches, etc. at no out of pocket cost *and *get them installed for you! If any wound care supplies, like gauze and tape or fancy expensive dressings are ordered by the doctor, the home health company will get them for you and Medicare will pay for them. If either or both need it, they can get Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and/or Speech Therapy at home, too, until they’re ready to leave the house. There’s also a benefit for a visit from a Medical Social Worker, who can help with community resources they may not know about. If they have only private insurance, you can check with their 1-800 number to see if they have a benefit for Home Health Care and what the limits may be.

Even if they don’t qualify as homebound, many home health companies will send out someone to do a free one time safety check and make recommendations to make the home safer. Things like removing throw rugs, putting lamps on both sides of the bed, grab bars, bannisters on both sides of stairs, contrast stripes on stair edges…we’ve got lots of suggestions! We like to go out and do this because it gives us a way to make a connection and get our card into your hands so if one of them needs home health down the road, you can call us.

And I second what **Iggy **says: don’t freak out if your mom seems worse off than your dad for a bit. It’s expected.

This is very helpful - I hadn’t thought about that at all. I assumed that since my father is in much worse shape now, he would continue to be after the surgery.

Good plan. We’re going to be staying in a friend’s house, since my parents’ house is 2 hours away from the hospital, and I don’t know how accessible the friend’s house is.

I do NOT think this is going to be a problem. They are both aggressively independent.

They’re too young (60-ish) and they make way too much money. Did I mention that they are both working physicians? However, I’m not sure what their insurance covers and it would be worth finding out.

I’m guessing, since they are closely linked to a variety of social workers and health care systems for their patients, that they will be getting good advice on what is available to them for their own care. But I should make sure that they are reaching out to their professional network for their personal needs.

This would be useful regardless - they have been slowly converting their primary residence into a more accessible place under the assumption that they’ll eventually need it, but having professionals come in and point out details would be helpful. (They’ve installed a walk-in shower and added central heating to the existing wood-burning stoves.)

Thanks, everybody! Has anyone out there taken care of a post-kidney surgery patient themselves?

Iggy is right about Dad’s recovery being faster/easier. Seen that many times. Do make sure you have legal paperwork like healthcare proxies and power of atty. in place ahead of time just in case there are unforseen problems. Also, it would be good if you and sis could overlap your caregiving stints by a few days. Supporting each other will make the whole experience much better. If that’s not possible, daily phone contact with her or other concerned family/friends takes a lot of the burden off you. Best of luck! This may well be an amazing bonding experience for everyone concerned.