What to Do When Dad Refuses Rehab Therapy After Surgery?

Author: Maine Veterans' Homes
Posted: March 02, 2017
Category: Rehabilitation & Therapy

“When can I go home?” is often one of the first questions after a surgery or any hospitalization. This can be difficult to answer when you know the best option is a rehabilitation center first, so your loved one can get around-the-clock professional care and therapy.

It’s even more difficult when you’re the child informing your parent on how and where he will get physical, occupational or speech language therapy. What do you do when he says “no”? What if he is adamant he is not going to a rehabilitation center and you know going home is not the best option for recovery nor the safest?

Understand Why Dad Doesn’t Want Rehabilitation Therapy

Our rehabilitation therapists have seen this situation before and advise children to be patient with their parents. Don’t let the conversation escalate into a screaming match as that will not convince your parent or help in the recovery.

Begin the conversation by trying to understand why he doesn’t want to consider an environment where professionals will be on hand to assist him 24-7. Let him know you understand the desire to go home as quickly as possible, but professional rehabilitation can be the difference between a successful, speedy recovery or an unfortunate trip back to the hospital.

Is He Afraid Rehab Will Increase Pain After Surgery?

Ask about pain. Is your father afraid physical or occupational therapy may cause more pain? Have his doctor or a physical therapist walk him through his customized plan for rehab and recovery so he fully understands what lies ahead. He may fear the unknown more than physical pain.

Also consider any mental anguish, such as depression. The medical condition itself or aftermath, such as speech problems from a stroke, can cause depression. Symptoms of depression can include fatigue, isolation, a lack of desire, feelings of hopelessness and irritability, which may be the real reason he is refusing rehabilitation.

Is He Concerned About Going to a Nursing Home?

Does your parent have a preconceived or false image of the environment where his rehabilitation therapy will occur? For example, he may have stereotyped “nursing home” as a place where older people go and never go back home.

Has he ever visited the rehabilitation center you are considering? If not, he may be basing his refusal for care on false information or assumptions.

Show him online pictures of the facility and therapy rooms. Pull up any social media posts or online reviews you can find. Let him talk to a physical therapist or admissions coordinator, if possible.

Help Your Parent Understand His Veteran Benefits for Therapy

He may be basing his refusal for rehabilitation therapy on costs. Most insurance covers at least some of the cost of therapy and, for veterans, there are additional avenues to explore to help pay for the stay.

Find out if he is eligible for services at one of our six Maine Veterans’ Homes, where he would be with other veterans and staff trained to work with veterans.

Compare his benefits with the costs of going home and take into consideration all variables, from special equipment needed to transportation to bringing in caregivers. He may have made a false assumption that rehabilitation care is too expensive.


Transition into Physical Therapy with Small Targeted Goals

Have a conversation early on with his care team on their plans and goals for his rehabilitation therapy and recovery. Ensure your parent is included in understanding and setting these goals. For example, let him know during the first week he will be receiving X amount of therapy on X days with a goal of achieving X by the end of the week.

Let him known the plan and therapists can be adjusted to meet his needs, progression and comfort. Oftentimes, it’s soothing to just know what lies ahead.

Pre-book Rehab Care for Your Parent’s Surgery

If you’re preparing for your parent’s upcoming surgery, it’s always best to create a plan before surgery for post acute care and rehabilitation.

Research online for rehabilitation centers in your area. Ask your parent’s doctor for a few recommendations. Ask your parent’s friends where they have gone or where they have heard positive reviews.

Narrow down your list and take tours. Use these 10 questions when touring rehabilitation centers to help you find the best facility for your parent’s post-surgery therapy and recovery.


At Maine Veterans Homes, our team of healthcare professionals work with your family to develop a customized treatment plan to help your parent recovery fully and regain independence. We also provide comprehensive discharge planning, which may include home assessments, equipment recommendation and family training and education.

Whether your loved one is in need of rehabilitative care, therapy services, long-term care or dementia care, we work with you to provide the exceptional care, compassion and support you are looking for. Contact us online today or give us a call at 1-800-278-9494 to find out more.

Maine Veterans’ Homes is an independent nonprofit organization serving Maine’s veterans and families.

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