What to Do When Your Aging Parent Refuses Short-Term Rehabilitation

Mother and daughter reviewing paperwork

“With today’s model of health care, many adult children find that their aging parents are discharged from the hospital after an illness, injury or surgery well before they’re ready and able to return home successfully,” says Colleen Dwyer, RN, NHA, Executive Director and Administrator of Bryn Mawr Terrace.

“The good news is that short-term rehabilitation programs are available that support successful recoveries and returns to home for older adults as quickly and safely as possible. “However, sometimes older adults have fears and concerns about spending additional time in short-term rehabilitation – as brief as their stay might be. Or, they simply want to go home NOW, even if it might be hazardous to their safety and health. When this occurs, it is important to show compassion and understanding to your aging parent while also emphasizing the realities of the situation and the sustainable benefits that short-term rehabilitation can provide.”

Steps You Can Take When Your Aging Parent Refuses Short-Term Rehabilitation

When an aging parent refuses to participate in short-term rehabilitation as part of their recovery process, there can be several unhealthy and unhappy results. These include:

  • Loss of some functional abilities and personal independence
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Decreased emotional well-being and a higher risk of depression
  • Becoming a burden on their adult children and other family members

Fortunately, there are steps you can take that can spare your aging parent and yourself the negatives associated with refusing rehabilitation. The article, “How to Get a Loved One to Participate in Senior Rehab,” offers some useful tips for dealing with the situation and encouraging your aging parent to participate in the short-term rehabilitation services they need to return to the highest level of functional independence possible. For example:

  • Explain the Necessity and Value of Short-Term Rehabilitation – Educate your aging loved one on how imperative rehab is to their full recovery and long-term health. Short-term rehabilitation is specifically designed to achieve better health outcomes for their future. For example, research shows that rehabilitation patients develop more independence and a greater quality of life when they go through the necessary rehabilitation process following a surgical procedure, illness or injury.
  • Be Caring and Understanding of Your Aging Parent’s Emotional Situation – When an older adult learns that he or she is going to rehab instead of returning home, it can create a great deal of disappointment and concern, and even fear. Emphasize to your aging parent that their stay in short-term rehabilitation will be temporary and that they will be able to return home in a better condition and live better in a brief period of time. In addition, older loved ones may have fears because they’ve heard that rehabilitation can be uncomfortable. When this occurs, their health care provider can be helpful by being empathetic with them while explaining that some short-term discomfort is often necessary for improved function and a full and successful recovery. Also, remind them that you will always be there for them by supporting them during their stay in short-term rehab and visiting them as frequently as possible.
  • Calmly but Firmly Explain the Downsides of Refusing Treatment – Emphasize to your aging parent that that the short-term rehabilitation therapy is being prescribed by a doctor who has decided it is medically necessary. If they disregard the physician’s recommendation, their quality of life and level of independence will likely decline and their life may never be the same. Common examples include a person who refuses rehab may never regain the ability to walk unassisted following a fall or hip surgery or be able to independently complete activities of daily living after a stroke. In some instances, an aging parent’s refusal of short-term rehabilitation can also have very serious financial consequences. For example, if your loved one has Medicare Part A and refuses the recommended rehabilitation after a qualifying three-day hospital stay, their coverage could be denied by Medicare – even if they change their mind at a later date and decide to participate in the prescribed rehabilitation. Therefore, to safeguard your parent against the possible loss of insurance coverage for their rehabilitation, be sure to check first with your insurance and healthcare providers so you understand the terms under which your loved one will be covered. Today, different providers can have different “bundled’ insurance arrangements for services so it is very important to understand the specific details of your loved one’s plan ahead of time.
  • Enlist the Support of Others Whom Your Aging Parent Respects – You might also find that your aging parent will not believe what you tell them unless the information is reinforced from some other trusted individual. Therefore, if all else fails, call in other appropriate people to help. This could be a long-time friend, a trusted attorney or financial counselor, a member of the clergy or another physician. You can also think back to their hospital stay. Was there a particular nurse or social worker that they bonded with? A former patient who had a similar medical experience could also be useful in underscoring the importance of short-term rehabilitation in their own life.

Colleen adds, “While it might take some time to convince your aging parent to proceed with their short-term rehabilitation, it is well worth the effort. A brief stay in short-term rehab can safeguard their health and independence while improving their quality of life for years to come.”

For more helpful senior living and senior care information, we invite you to read our monthly articles and tips on a variety of important senior health topics. We also welcome you to stop in for a tour to see for yourself why we’ve been rated “Best in Senior Care.”

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, “What to Do When Your Aging Parent Refuses Short-Term Rehabilitation,” we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us in our comments section.

A Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

There are times when the challenges associated with advanced age, a prolonged illness or a chronic condition make 24-hour care and support a necessity. At Bryn Mawr Terrace, we’re always here for you and your family. Our compassionate, professional team treats our residents as family and respects each of them as the individuals they are, all with their own unique life story.

We understand that each one of our residents has unique needs and desires, so we deliver personalized care and services that are tailored to each individual. The amenities and activities offered within our community are designed to keep our residents happy, fulfilled and living well. From delicious dining to a variety of social programming, we offer a lifestyle that’s meant to be lived!

Located near Bryn Mawr Hospital, Bryn Mawr Terrace – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has provided exceptional care and services to seniors and their families since 1966. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Bryn Mawr Terrace serves as a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), offering a range of services – including short-term rehabilitation, traditional nursing care, independent living, personal care, memory care, restorative care and respite care – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing.

For more information on Bryn Mawr Terrace and our variety of needs-based lifestyle services, please call us at 610.525.8300 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Bryn Mawr Terrace and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.


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