Coming Home After a Stroke
The American Stroke Association recently announced that due to improved prevention and treatment, the death rate from stroke has declined. But stroke remains a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S.—137,000 Americans each year die of stroke and many more suffer temporary or permanent physical and mental disability.
Many stroke survivors are discharged from the hospital to a rehabilitation or long-term care facility. Others return home, attending an outpatient rehabilitation program several times per week. Rehabilitation treatment provided in the home is also a good choice for many patients. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) says that although home-based programs lack the large specialized equipment found at a stroke rehab facility, treatment at home allows patients to practice skills and compensation strategies in the context of their own living environment. At the 2011 International Stroke Conference, NINDS researchers demonstrated that stroke patients who received structured physical therapy at home showed improvement matching that of patients who received treatment in a facility. Dr. Walter Koroshetz said, "The results of this study show that the more expensive, high-tech therapy was not superior to intensive home strength and balance training."
The Role of Family Caregivers
With today’s shorter hospital stays and fewer residential rehabilitation placements, family caregivers are picking up a larger share of the care for loved ones. The National Family Caregivers Association says that up to 80 percent of stroke patients are assisted by family members during their recovery.
Caregiving offers many emotional rewards, but it is hard work and can be stressful. In the May 2011 issue of Caring Right at Home, "Stroke Caregivers Face Their Own Health Challenges" reported that stroke caregivers are at higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease—even of suffering a stroke themselves. Since that article was published, Loyola University School of Medicine researchers released findings on the emotional impact of stroke caregiving. "Stroke survivors can suffer significant and lasting disabilities that may require lifelong support from family and other caregivers," said lead author Karen Saban, Ph.D., R.N. "Many families struggle to provide 24-hour care for their loved ones. This burden places the caregivers at risk for depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances, which can harm quality of life and heighten their risk for other health problems."
Examining the factors that influence successful recovery from stroke, a University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston team found that having a good social support system is high on the list. And family caregivers also need support! Patients and caregivers alike should take advantage of the increasing availability of resources for stroke patients who are recovering at home. These services include:
- Outpatient care at a stroke center or other rehabilitation facility
- Home-based rehabilitation programs, including physical, speech and occupational therapy
- Home modifications, such as rearranging furniture and kitchen equipment, and adding grab bars and a raised toilet seat in the bathroom
- Stroke support groups and education for patients and family caregivers
- Skilled nursing care at home
The Role of In-Home Care
In-home companion care, less costly than skilled nursing, also helps keep stroke survivors safe at home and supports recovery. Trained, professional in-home caregivers:
- Transport patients to doctor appointments and outpatient rehabilitation appointments
- Assist with medications by providing medication reminders and picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy
- Go to the grocery store and prepare nutritious meals, according to the specifications of the patient’s healthcare provider
- Provide supervision and confidence as the patient regains strength and function
- Keep the home safe and in good order with housekeeping and prompt removal of hazards that could cause a fall
- Help coordinate other services, including visits from skilled nursing and rehabilitation professionals
Families find that in-home care supports their own well-being and health, as well. In-home caregivers perform taxing physical tasks that family may not be trained to do. The caregiver can provide respite while family members are at work or busy with other responsibilities, taking the night shift if necessary so family can get a good night’s sleep. And when family members live at a distance, knowing a trained caregiver is there to assist their loved one and keep family informed provides priceless peace of mind.
This year, the U.S. government rolled out the Million Hearts™ initiative to help fight heart disease and stroke.
The American Stroke Association offers information and support for family caregivers.
For information on topics related to home care and healthcare, visit our Home Care and Healthcare Advocacy group on LinkedIn.
Right at Home, Inc. is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned, franchised providers of in-home care services.