It can often be difficult after a long bout of pediatric physical therapy to move on to an independent program. This can be for many reasons including disruption of a routine that the family is already accustomed to, anxiety over continuing with exercises learned during therapy, not fully understanding the reason for discharge and possibly the feeling of “giving up”. All of these are natural feelings at the time of discharge and can be alleviated with education and a good understanding as to why the child is being discharged.
A discharge from physical therapy services can be for many reasons but it’s important to understand that it does not always mean that the condition is alleviated. Many different conditions come with life long deficits that could be improved with physical therapy but are not expected to alleviate fully. In these situations, it is important for the family to observe physical therapy sessions and ask questions to get comfortable with home exercise programming so treatment can continue at home since it will be a lifelong process. This does not mean you are giving up! It means that you are taking control of the programming and taking one step closer to independence. By moving to a home exercise program, treatment can continue with greater frequency and improved flexibility in timing which leads to a consistent routine and ongoing improvement.
Physical Therapy can give you the tools needed to continue progressing or maintaining functional abilities. In order to be successful, follow through at home is a must. When the time for discharge comes, it should be a time of celebration. Even if there is more work to do, it means that the family has progressed to the point where the therapist believes that they can be successful on their own. As with many difficult situations in life, there can be fear that you won’t be able to meet the challenge on your own but once you overcome that fear and begin to succeed that fear will be replaced with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.
It’s also important to keep in mind that there is help available if things aren’t going as well as you had hoped. A discharge from care does not mean you are never able to consult with a therapist again. If the need arises, therapists would be happy to help brush up on home programming or address new issues as they may arise.
When the time for discharge comes families should embrace the challenge, celebrate the freedom and know that help is only a phone call away!