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Hip Surgery Recovery for Seniors: Timeline and Tips 

Written by Melissa Lee
 about the author
10 minute readLast updated April 26, 2023
Reviewed by Amanda LundbergAmanda Lundberg is a nurse with over 10 years of experience in clinical settings. She is an expert in family medicine as well as various specialties. Her holistic approach to health focuses on wellness and preventative care. She now writes content for health and wellness brands under her company name, Locksley Content.

If your mom or dad has endured a fall and broken a hip or been diagnosed with a degenerative condition like arthritis, they may be facing an emergent or upcoming hip surgery. The surgery process for an aging parent can feel overwhelming for everyone involved. There’s likely a lot of medical information coming your way — it can feel like trying to sip from a fire hose. But by learning the basics about hip surgery, key recovery milestones, and essential ways to promote recovery, you can feel empowered to help your loved one heal after hip surgery.

Key Takeaways

  1. There are three common categories of hip surgery. These are a total hip replacement, partial hip replacement, and alternative hip surgeries.
  2. Hip replacement surgery complications can be both near and far term. Complications can include blood clots, difference in leg length, hip dislocation, nerve issues, and anesthesia problems.
  3. Hip surgery recovery can usually be measured in months but may be as long as a year. Actual recovery time varies from person to person and depends upon the type of surgery performed.
  4. Adult children can help encourage and support their parent’s recovery. They may help around the house, transport the parent to appointments, offer emotional support, and more.

What are the types of hip surgery?

Hip surgeries can include total hip replacements, partial hip replacements, and alternative surgical interventions, such as metal rods, plates, and screws. These types of surgeries may be necessitated by some types of arthritis, unusual bone growths, or a hip fracture.
While arthritis and bone growth conditions may allow your loved one to plan for their surgery far in advance, hip fracture treatment often requires surgery within 24 to 48 hours of the injury. Immediate treatment helps to prevent serious complications in elderly parents, including those that may contribute to fatality.[01]

Total hip replacement

To understand hip replacement surgery, you should first know that the hip joint is essentially a ball in a socket. The ball rotates in the socket to provide a range of motion and help one move around.
In a total hip replacement, a surgeon replaces the ball (also referred to as the femoral head) with a metal ball, then places a shell with a plastic liner inside the natural hip socket.[02]
Who needs a total hip replacement? People with arthritis typically need a total hip replacement because of the degenerative nature of the disease and its overall effects on the hip joint.[03]
In some cases, a total hip replacement may be used for people with a broken hip or bone malformations. Your loved one will need to speak with their medical team to learn which type of hip surgery may be right for them.
A total hip replacement typically offers better longevity of the joint replacement and more consistent pain relief for patients.[02] However, it may only be available to younger and healthier seniors due to the longer length of the surgery, which may last a couple of hours. Those in a better physical condition can typically handle an extended surgical procedure with greater ease.[04]

Partial hip replacement

A partial hip replacement, also called a hemiarthroplasty, only involves replacing the ball of the hip joint with a metal ball.[02]
Who needs a partial hip replacement? In the past, people may have felt like this was a less aggressive way to treat hip issues because it replaces less natural tissues. Today, this type of surgery is more common in older patients and high-risk patients because it’s a smaller surgical procedure. This means there’s typically less blood loss and surgery may be completed in less than an hour.[04,05]
However, this type of hip replacement is rarely performed in the U.S., as it has fallen out of favor to the total hip replacement. This is due to the additional complications and potential failures related to partial hip replacements.[02]
With a partial hip replacement, the surgeon tries to get the artificial ball to work with your loved one’s natural socket. This can result in artificial parts rubbing against natural tissues, such as bone and soft tissue, which can result in pain that prevents a patient from performing normal activities.[06]
This merging of artificial and natural materials also means a partial hip replacement is typically slower to rehabilitate. This limited mobility can result in additional health complications including infections.[05]
It’s also not uncommon for surgeons to do an additional surgery on someone with a partial hip replacement to turn it into a total hip replacement.[02] Multiple surgeries are typically not ideal for most older people when it comes to quality of life.

Alternative surgical interventions

In some cases, a total hip replacement or partial hip replacement may not be what your loved one’s medical team recommends. Surgeons may also be able to repair a fractured hip joint with metal rods, plates, or screws. These are often permanent and remain in the patient.[01]

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Hip replacement complications in elderly populations

Hip replacement complications can be both short- and long-term ordeals.
Short-term complications can include:
  • Blood clots, which can cause a cascade of health issues if they block blood from flowing to and from the heart
  • Difference in leg length
  • Hip dislocation after surgery
  • Infection in the hip joint or surrounding areas
  • Injury to the nerves
  • Issues with anesthesia
  • Surgical wound healing problems [07]
Even if your loved one doesn’t have short-term complications, they could still be affected by long-term complications, such as the hip implant loosening in the bone or an infection in the joint.[07]

Hip surgery recovery time for elderly parents

Total hip replacement and partial hip replacement recovery times may vary based on your loved one’s overall health status, physical condition, and other individualized factors. If your loved one has an alternative surgical intervention, they’ll need to talk to their medical care team to learn about their unique recovery timeline.

How long does it take for a broken hip to heal?

Generally, a partial hip replacement recovery may take at least six months, but it may take significantly longer depending on how the body’s natural tissues handle the artificial parts.[08] For those who experience a partial hip replacement failure, they may never experience a full recovery regardless of the length of time after surgery.
In contrast, a total hip replacement can have a rapid recovery period in the first 12 to 15 weeks following surgery.[09] However, full rehabilitation can take up to a year.
If your loved one chooses not to have a surgical intervention, it’ll likely take 3 to 4 months to heal a broken hip. However, this may differ depending on their overall health, physical fitness, and the location of the break. It’s important to note that this course of action may result in other health issues, such as bed sores, pneumonia, and repeated urinary tract infections.[10]

Short-term tips for helping a senior recover from hip surgery

The simplest way you can help your elderly parent start their healing journey is to offer your support and encouragement. It’s also a good idea to start planning for your parent’s return home as far in advance as possible. Given the advances in surgical technologies, it’s possible for a patient to return home after only 24 to 48 hours in the hospital following hip surgery.[02]
Here are some additional tips to help you get your parent on the path to recovery.

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Determine if your parent needs help at home

Your loved one’s medical care team may provide guidance in this area. Typically, a recovering patient can use someone to help them get around their home and perform basic activities for days or weeks following surgery.[08]
Ask your parent’s medical provider if your loved one has activity or lifting restrictions. You may need to lift heavy objects, such as trash bags or laundry baskets, for your loved one to prevent strain on their hip.[11]
If your parent lives far from family, they may want to consider home care for post-surgery support. Our Senior Care Advisors can help them find an in-home care provider that fits their unique needs.

Purchase assistive devices in advance

It’s likely that your loved one’s medical provider will encourage them to use a walker or crutches in the early days after the surgery. They’ll probably need an elevated toilet seat or a bedside commode to make toileting more comfortable post-surgery.[11]
In some cases, the medical team may also recommend your loved one wear compression socks to prevent blood clots.[07] Your parent will typically need an adaptive device to put on the compression socks as well. This prevents your parent from bending their hip at more than 90 degrees.[11]
You can ease the burden on your parent by arranging for these items to be delivered and set up prior to your loved one’s surgery or return home.

Obtain prescription medications prior to returning home

You can help your parent adhere to their treatment plan and avoid unnecessary pain by assisting with medication pickup or delivery prior to their return home. It’s likely that they’ll need pain medication and medication to prevent blood clots following hip surgery.[07]
Check with your loved one’s medical care team for more personalized information on medication needs.

Arrange for transportation

Depending on the instructions from your loved one’s medical provider, they may not be allowed to drive for some time following surgery.
You can help your parent by offering to drive them home from the hospital, to follow-up appointments, and to rehab activities. Rehabilitation alone frequently lasts six months or more. It’s very important for your loved one to attend these appointments to learn exercises they’ll need to do on their own to promote healing and muscle strength.[07]
If you don’t live in the area, or if your work schedule doesn’t allow you time to help, you may need to consider hiring an in-home caregiver to assist with transportation or assist your parent with connecting with public transportation resources.[11]

Encourage your parent to rest

Your loved one may be tempted to jump back into life right away. However, hip surgery typically requires a substantial amount of downtime.
You can encourage them to rest by taking some tasks off their plate.
Here are some ways to help out:
  • Order groceries or prepared meals to be delivered to your parent’s home.
  • Clean their home or hire a cleaning service.
  • Mow their lawn or hire a landscaping company.
  • Do their laundry or hire a laundry service.
If your parent likes socializing, you can offer to spend time talking, watching a favorite movie, or helping with their rehab exercises. Emotional support is an intangible factor that may help their recovery.

Look for hazards in their home

While your parent’s home may be fine under normal circumstances, consider taking a second look prior to their return home for hazards that may slow or prevent recovery.
Encourage your parent to avoid sitting in low chairs, overstuffed sofas, and bucket seats in vehicles. These movements can cause the hip joint to bend more than 90 degrees, which may cause negative health consequences after surgery.[11]
Loose cords should be secured, and any other trip hazards removed, as a post-surgery fall can be catastrophic for hip surgery recovery.

Tips for maintaining a steady recovery over the long-term

It can be tempting for your loved one to “let off the gas” once they feel like they’re making progress in the immediate months following hip surgery, but the increased ability to move and enjoy life again can be deceiving. This relaxed attitude toward recovery efforts can potentially cause issues in the long-term.
The following tips can help your parent maintain their recovery.


You should continue to cheer your parent on as they do the exercises recommend by their medical care team for as long as the team deems them necessary. Building and maintaining muscle can help support your parent’s hip joint.[07]
If your loved one stops doing their prescribed exercises after three to four months post-surgery, they may be at risk for muscle weakness and falls. These can cause issues with their hip replacement or cause other health issues over time.[09]

Maintain a healthy weight

While this can be an extremely sensitive subject, it’s an important one. Excess body mass puts increased stress on the hip joint, which can cause the artificial parts to wear out sooner.[07]
Your loved one’s medical care team can help determine their ideal weight and any steps they may need to take to reach it.

Avoid damaging physical activities

High-risk activities, such as running, may cause damage to the hip joint or lead to falls and further injuries. Placing significant stress on the joint typically isn’t ideal.
If your elderly parent loved playing tennis before needing hip surgery, they may be saddened to learn that that activity may be too stressful on their new hip. You can encourage them to pursue lower risk activities, such as swimming, biking, or playing golf.[07]


  1. Sorich, M. (2022, January 31). Why hip fractures require immediate treatment. UT Southwestern Medical Center.

  2. The Leone Center for Orthopedic Care. Holy Cross Orthopedic Institute. Partial vs. total hip replacement surgery.

  3. MovementOrthopedics. (2019, February 15). Is there such a thing as partial hip replacement?

  4. The Leone Center for Orthopedic Care. Holy Cross Orthopedic Institute. Why partial hip replacements fail and determining when it’s time to covert to a total hip replacement.

  5. HealthLink BC. (2023, January 17). Partial hip replacement surgery.

  6. Alberta Health Services. (2022, February 25). Learning about partial hip replacement surgery.

  7. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. (2011, April 1). Total hip replacement: How long does it take to recover?

  8. Reno Orthopedic Center. Hip fracture (broken hip).

  9. Bone and Joint Institute Patient Education. Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. PennState Health. What are the dos and don’ts after a hip replacement?

Meet the Author
Melissa Lee

Melissa Lee is a copywriter at OurParents, where she primarily creates content for veterans and caregivers. She pairs over a decade of writing experience with expertise gained from her time as a military programs volunteer and military spouse. She studied journalism at the University of Kansas.

Edited byDanny Szlauderbach
Reviewed byAmanda Lundberg

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