Options for stroke victims returning home

ST. MARYS – Following a stroke, a patient and family members are often faced with a number of challenges that accompany the decision to bring their loved one home. But a recent seminar held at The Education Center at Elk Regional Health Center that focused on prevention and treatment also touched on the home health care options available to a patient and family in returning home. Julie Heary, an RN and educational coordinator with Elk Regional Health Center, discussed what a stroke victim and their family can expect in returning home. She said skilled nursing is often needed when re-acclimating stroke victims to their residences and that the goal of nursing professionals is to help patients remain in their homes for as long as possible. "Our goal is to keep you at home. We want to be there where you want to be," Heary said. Heary explained this process begins with an assessment of the the patient's body and vital signs, as well as the safety of the home. In addition, a skilled nurse can help to address any preexisting medical issues and maintain medication regimens. "Most likely you're going to be on several different medications when you go home with a stroke: blood thinners, different blood pressure medications. We can do medication monitoring and education to help you learn how to take those medicines and help monitor to make sure they're doing what they're supposed to do," Heary said. Heary said that the rehabilitation process and stroke therapies can be continued in the home setting. With continued rehabilitation needs, a therapist would come into the home and work together with the home health aide in providing ongoing therapy, whether occupational, physical, speech-oriented or a combination. Heary said that in addition to the patient, the home itself is evaluated in accommodating a stroke victim's needs, including modifying the home to be handicap- or wheelchair-accessible. Heary also discussed technological advances that have made it possible for more individuals to receive vital monitoring services remotely in the home setting on a daily basis and in between visits from a home health aide. One such option is the Tele-health system, which she described as a monitor installed in the home which enables patients to check their vital signs, blood pressure, and oxygen levels."It asks a series of questions directly related to your diagnosis. And you do this every day. These are in-between visits from when the nurse arrives. So the nurse comes in a couple of times a week, but every day you can check your vital signs and answer a series of questions and that information is transmitted back to a nurse at the office so someone is looking at your health status every day. So they're looking at it and they can help pick up on things early, whether it be blood pressure starting to rise, if you're starting to have symptoms, the nurse can catch that and we can intervene before it develops into a problem," Heary said. Heary added that discussing the causes of the stroke with the family and patient in an effort to prevent an additional is also involved. "We do a lot of patient and family education. A lot of patients and family need education on why this happened and how to prevent this in the future," Heary said. Pick up a copy of the Friday, May 25, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.