Some would say that having no fore warning of surgery is the best way to undergo such a procedure.There is no time to worry over the outcome or often no long period of pain leading up to it. However, most people do have surgery scheduled a few weeks in advance and that allows for a certain amount of preparation to help things go smoothly and aid recovery afterwards.
Of course, the recovery period after surgery will be determined by the type and invasiveness of the surgery. A small local anaesthetic as a day-patient should really only take a few hours to get over if you are otherwise fit and healthy, whereas a lengthy period of general anaesthetic is harder on the body.
If you are due to have a local anaesthetic procedure, you should consider the logistics of getting to the surgery or hospital, and more importantly, getting home again afterwards. Even if the site of the operation on your body is not going to impede you from driving, the effects of the anaesthetic or the pain once it starts to wear off may make it difficult and even dangerous for you to drive yourself home. If you don't have a friend or relative who can drive, consider booking a taxi. Ambulances should not be called to take a person home, leave them for real emergencies.
The day before your surgery, think about what you can do to make your time immediately after surgery as easy as possible. Make sure your laundry is all up to date, and that you have enough groceries to last a couple of days. Do any cleaning needed, particularly vacuuming or anything that will involve reaching up high. You might also want to prepare an evening meal for after your surgery the day before. You can keep it chilled in the refrigerator until you need it. The effects of anaesthetic are different for everyone, and you may only feel like a light meal or just a small portion of soup.
If your surgery is of a more invasive kind, it is likely that you will be spending at least one or two nights in hospital afterwards. If you have pets, consider placing them either with friends or family, or into a boarding home, and extend their stay until a few days after you are due to go home. If your condition allows, take all the steps mentioned above for local anaesthetic procedures like getting all the laundry and cleaning done.
Pack the bag you are planning to take with you to the hospital, and also a smaller one with clean clothes that can be brought to you either on the day you go home, or in case your stay in hospital is extended for any reason. Remember to include a few comforts such as hand cream, a book to read or crossword puzzles to do, perhaps borrow an MP3 player and upload some of your favourite music. People commonly find that their concentration wains after surgery, so some kind of entertainment that you can do in short bursts or that you don't have to think too hard about is ideal.
If you are going to be away from home for more than 3 or 4 days, make sure someone has your keys and can enter your home to move the curtains, turn lights on and off, bring in mail, and anything else that gives the impression the house is still occupied. You might consider renting a PO Box, or redirecting your mail to a friend or neighbour if your stay in hospital is likely to be longer than a couple of weeks.
If your mobility is going to be impaired directly after surgery, even if you are released from hospital, think about moving some furniture around to create clear pathways through your home. If your bedroom is upstairs, consider bringing the bed down to the ground floor, or buying or borrowing a smaller bed for a while. Cook up food that can be frozen in portions and heated through in a microwave or on the stove top easily, like chili. Arrange for someone to drop in on you once a day, and if you think you will need help during the night, make arrangements for someone to stay with you for a few days after you return home.
Pay a visit to a mobility aids store and see if there are any small items that will be helpful to you. A long handled stick with a grabbing mechanism at the end is ideal if you will be unable to bend down for some time. You may also find it useful to invest in a small bag or purse with a long shoulder strap, that you can wear around your neck to keep a pencil and pad, spectacles, or a cell phone in while you move around the house, to stop you trying to hurry to find them and trip or fall.
But the most important thing to prepare yourself for, is the help that friends and family want to offer at such times. Try to accept with good grace that they want to cook a meal, or plump up your pillows or even sit and "keep you company" when you would really rather nap in your chair for an hour. Remember, it is better to have it that way, than have no one to offer at all.