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National Heart Month Tips

Tips for caring for patients with stroke from Qualicare HomeCare.

Morris, NJ, February 15, 2014 --( Each year, some 800,000 Americans have a stroke, or cerebrovascular accident (CVA) (American Heart Association, 2013), when blood flow to a part of the brain stops. Follow-up care varies widely, depending on the severity of the stroke's damage. Some people can speak and walk, although with delays or assistance. Paralysis or impairment on one side of the body and face is common. Still others may be bedbound and unable to communicate. Home care, whether from a professional care team, a committed family member, or a combination, is often times necessary around the clock.

An attentive home health care team including home health aides, nurses, physical therapists, speech therapists and social workers, Patients regain their daily activities and lead a normal life.

Specialized care -- such as for a stroke survivor -- has become central to the story of nurse-led home health care, in which teams help patients implement doctor's orders or a nurse's plan of care as part of day-to-day life at home. Qualicare Homecare receives and fulfills requests all the time for home health aides with experience or training in caring for patients with special or specific care needs, which includes individuals with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, congestive heart failure, cancer and those in hospice.

No matter the condition, home care involves a combination of physical and emotional attention. Patience, compassion and encouragement are a must. "I always look for something positive and pay a compliment right when I come in," says Donna, who is a case manager. "You can always find something positive to say. It does so much."

Care: From Head to Toe
Caring for a stroke survivor involves being attentive from head to toe, as stroke often affects the ability to speak and swallow as well as stand, balance and walk. Oral care is central to safety and well-being. Make sure food never gets left in the mouth. Doctor's orders or a nurse's plan of care should let you know if food should be pureed or cut in very small pieces. Still, encourage the person toward as much independence as possible. You cut the food but encourage her to feed herself. If a fork is unwieldy, use a spoon. If she can lift a cup but is unsteady, use a sippy cup.

Whether unsteady or paralyzed, those who have had a stroke usually need some degree of assistance when transferring positions -- from bed to standing or to a wheelchair, or into a bath or shower. A patient lift is a must to safely transfer those who are paralyzed; Qualicare always train their Health Aides to use lifts safely. To prevent bedsores, change bed position a minimum of every two hours when caring for someone who is unable to move him -- or herself.

Battling Depression and Isolation
Any sudden decline in health and loss of independence can cause a downward spiral of frustration, isolation and depression. specific instructions for home health aides and other caregivers to foster independence and a sense of purpose and counter depression are very crucial. Encourage even with immobile clients to pick out their personal belongings or their food menus.

Make sure to include pleasurable and familiar activities in the day's routine. If patients love the museum, find a way to get there, perhaps in a wheelchair. If like the evening news, keep up that habit.

Communication Tools
Like 1 in 4 people left with a speech impairment after a stroke, Qualicare Home health aides made sure that patients are never without pencil and paper so the patients can communicate. For those who cannot speak or write, fashion communication in yes or no questions and having the client or loved one squeeze a caregiver’s hand, once for yes, twice for no works best.

Family caregivers and attentive home health aides also learn to recognize changes in facial expression, such as a grimace indicating discomfort or disagreement. For those who can write, encourage them to keep a journal, writing thoughts and hopes and fears without the frustration and pressure of communicating in the moment.

Memory Loss and Confusion
For those whose effects of stroke include memory loss or other cognitive issues, orient them in place and time by:
• Writing out the day and date in big letters on an erasable board or piece of paper
• Keeping a clock with big numerals visible from their bed or favorite chair
• Reading a morning newspaper out loud

Act F.A.S.T
Nearly 1 in 4 strokes suffered in the U.S. each year are by people who have had a previous stroke. In addition to making sure the patient or loved one follows doctor's orders and a nurse's plan of care to reduce stroke risk, make sure you can recognize signs of a stroke F.A.S.T, as the outlined:
• Face drooping
• Arm weakness
• Speech difficulty
• Time to call 911

Reach Out
Providing care to a stroke survivor can be a highly frustrating, isolating experience -- for them and for you. Connecting with others in a similar situation can be helpful. Find resources or a support group through the National stroke Association.

Learn about Professional Home Care following stroke at Qualicare Homecare.
Contact Information
Qualicare Homecare
Hina Jaggi

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