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The long journey of stroke recovery

Thanks to breakthroughs in medicine and nutrition in recent years, we are living longer than ever before. But this increase in life expectancy also brings an increase in the number of diseases, injuries and impairments that affect older adults. With this in mind, we at the local Visiting Angels office in Salem have created this series of articles to keep our older population and their families informed and to offer some practical advice for meeting the challenges faced by seniors and those who care for them.

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Surviving a stroke is often a lifechanging event. For those fortunate enough to be able to come back to their own home after hospitalization and rehabilitation, the transition may be difficult. Changes to that person’s lifestyle and living environment may be necessary to prevent further injury and hospital readmission.

The return home can be a stressful time for the stroke survivor and their family, and the survivor’s physical and mental wellbeing should be taken into consideration. A stroke can affect a person’s speech, motor functions and cognitive abilities. It may be hard for the individual returning to familiar surroundings but unable to interact with those surroundings in they ways they were accustomed to before their stroke. This can sometimes lead to frustration or depression.

Planning ahead and being prepared can help to ensure a successful transition home and help put the stoke survivor at ease as they begin the next stage of their recovery process. Most times, the hospital or rehabilitation facility team will determine the level of care that is needed at home and help develop a plan to put that care in place.

This evaluation will determine the level of assistance the individual needs with daily tasks such as feeding themselves, toileting, bathing and personal care, getting dressed, and ambulation, as well as any assistance the person might need with physical, occupational or speech therapy.

A case manager or social worker is typically part of the team that develops the plan of care prior to discharge. Their duties may include an assessment of the patient’s home to determine if there are any safety hazards that could hinder a productive recovery. They may suggest upgrades such as grab bars for the shower and toilet, a ramp to provide stair-free access to the home, or a lift to help navigate stairs inside the home.

They may also make recommendations for equipment, such as a shower bench for the bathroom, a hospital bed, walkers, or wheelchairs.

The social worker may also follow up with the patient after release to see if recovery is going smoothly. Even if they do, it is still important for family members and those caring for the person to keep in contact with the healthcare professionals overseeing recovery. Family caregivers should be sure to schedule all follow up visits with doctors and all therapy appointments.

They should also notify their loved one’s doctors immediately if there is a change in the persons condition that could indicate a setback in recovery.

Family caregivers should also make sure they are getting the help they need – physical and emotional – to be sure they are providing their loved one with the best care possible. Such assistance could come from support groups, which bring family members of stroke survivors together to share their experiences, or trained professional caregivers, who offer respite to family members, giving them a chance to take a break from their responsibilities and come back refreshed.

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Information provided by Visiting Angels, America’s choice in home care. The Visiting Angels Salem office recently received the Top 100 Leader in Experience Award, ranking 12th nationwide on the list of top 100 agencies recognized by Home Care Pulse, the leading firm in experience management for home care. To set up an appointment for a free, no-obligation in-home consultation, call 330-332-1203.

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