All Posts in Category: Wyoming

Don’t Have a Stroke

Dick Clark. Sharon Stone. Rick James.

When you think of these celebrities, you probably think of their talents. What you probably don’t realize is that each suffered a stroke.

Strokes – or brain attacks – can happen to anyone at any time. Strokes are the leading cause of adult disability in the United States, and the fifth leading cause of death.

According to the National Stroke Association, about 800,000 people suffer from strokes every year. What’s notable, however, is that nearly 80 percent of strokes can be avoided.

Certain traits, conditions and habits can raise an individual’s risk of having a stroke. Many of these lifestyle risk factors can be controlled and may actually help prevent a stroke from occurring.

That’s good news, right? So, how do we lessen our chances of having a stroke?

We can start by controlling these lifestyle risk factors:
• High blood pressure
• Smoking
• Diabetes
• Poor diet
• High blood cholesterol
• Physical inactivity
• Obesity
• Heart diseases
• Alcohol consumption

If you think you can improve any of these lifestyle risk factors, do it.
The changes you make now may affect what happens – or better yet, what doesn’t happen – later.

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5 Benefits of Walking

There’s nothing quite like a good walk. It doesn’t require a gym membership or a bunch of equipment, and often gets you into the great outdoors.

It’s also very good for you, both physically and mentally. Indeed, all of the benefits of walking would make for a long list, but here are five main benefits that can inspire you to lace up your walking shoes and get moving.

1. Walking Improves Your Mood

You know how it is at the end of a long, trying day. You get home and are looking for something to help take the edge off a little bit. And a great way to do just that – is by taking a walk.

Studies show that walking affects our nervous system, so that we’ll feel a decrease in anger and hostility. Furthermore, walking outside exposes you to sunlight, which helps you cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

2. Walking Combats the Effects of Too Much Sitting

It has become clear in recent years that prolonged sitting has many negative health effects, including the damage it causes to leg arteries. But one study showed that taking even three, five-minute walks a day can reverse this damage.

If your job entails prolonged sitting, it’s helpful to take a short break every hour and go for a quick stroll.

3. Walking Boosts Your Immune System

We’ve already mentioned how great walking is as a stress-reliever, but it also improves your circulation, and helps give you a sense of overall calm. In turn, these factors boost your immune system – which helps your body fight diseases; from the common cold, up to more serious health problems.

Walking has even been shown to lessen menopause symptoms for older women.

4. Walking Lowers Your Risk of Chronic Disease

We’ve already touched on the positive impact walking has on your immune system and fending off diseases, but it’s worth a closer look:

  • Walking lowers your blood sugar levels and your overall risk for diabetes (according to the American Diabetes Association).
  • Another study showed that regular walking lowered blood pressure, and may significantly reduce the risk of stroke.
  • Studies also show that those who walked regularly, and met minimum physical activity guidelines had a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.

5. Walking Helps Improve Your Creativity

The research is in: Walking and other physical activities will improve your creativity and help you find solutions – like those often faced at work –  to tricky problems. A study showed that walking produced twice as many creative responses in participants that walked, than those who were sitting for long periods.

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What is Occupational Therapy?

When it comes to health and rehabilitation professions, occupational therapists are truly a valuable resource.

Occupational therapy helps people optimize their ability to accomplish daily activities, through improving life skills following an injury or physical impairment. But there’s much more to occupational therapy than meets the eye – and in honor of National Occupational Therapy Month – let’s take a closer look.

What Do Occupational Therapists Do?

An occupational therapist works with people of all ages who are in need of specialized assistance because of physical, social, developmental, or emotional impairments. The occupational therapist helps patients lead more independent and productive lives by using daily activities such as self-care, work, play, and leisure as part of the therapeutic process.

A primary goal of an occupational therapist is to help patients improve their ability to carry out daily tasks. The occupational therapist will assess the patient’s home and work environment, and provide recommendations for how to adapt and lead a better quality of life. In short, occupational therapists help people with injuries, illnesses, and disabilities to live better lives.

What are Some Common Occupational Therapy Services?

  1. Occupational therapists often work with children with disabilities to help them participate fully in school and social activities.
  2. An occupational therapist may help someone who is recovering from an injury to regain needed day-to-day skills.
  3. The occupational therapist may provide support for older adults who are going through cognitive and physical changes.
  4. Occupational therapists will also do individualized evaluations, provide a customized rehabilitation plan, and ensure that outcomes are met throughout the rehabilitation process.
  5. While occupational therapists will sometimes directly treat injuries, they focus more often on helping the patient improve his or her life skills, while also incorporating adaptive tools that are sometimes created by the therapist.

Where Do Occupational Therapists Work?

An occupational therapist may work in a variety of settings, including: rehabilitation hospitals, nursing facilities, acute-care hospitals, outpatient clinics, home health, school systems, industry settings, and more. The types of places where an occupational therapist may work are growing annually.

In honor of National Occupational Therapy Month, we would like to thank all occupational therapists for what they do to help rehabilitate patients. We understand and appreciate the unique services that you provide!

 

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Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital Provides Nationally Recognized Care To Community for 9th Year in Row

For the 9th year in a row, Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital has been acknowledged for providing nationally recognized rehabilitative care to its patients. The hospital was ranked in the Top 10% of inpatient rehabilitation facilities nationwide for providing care that is patient-centered, effective, efficient and timely.

“We are very pleased to be recognized for our high quality care for the 9th year in a row,” says Mike Phillips, CEO of Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital. “What is most exciting is that patients right here in Wyoming have access to the highest level of rehabilitative care available nationally- right here in our own backyard.”

The hospital was ranked from among 781 inpatient rehabilitation facilities nationwide by the Uniform Data System for Medical Rehabilitation (UDSMR). The UDSMR is a non-profit corporation that was developed with support from the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. UDSMR maintains the world’s largest database for medical rehabilitation outcomes.

“Through UDSMR, we collaborate with our peers throughout the United States to share information and establish best practices for patients,” says Dr. Ryan T. Swan, Medical Director of the hospital. “This recognition for the 9th consecutive year is a testament to the exceptional care our staff brings every day to meet the rehabilitation needs of Wyoming’s citizens.”

Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital provides specialized rehabilitative services to patients who are recovering from disabilities caused by injuries, illnesses, or chronic medical conditions. This includes strokes, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and amputations, along with illnesses such as cerebral palsy, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

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National Doctors’ Day

The world of medicine was changed forever on March 30, 1842, with the first documented use of anesthesia during surgery.

While the accomplishments of doctors has continued to evolve  – and amaze – since then, March 30 remains a special day in the world of medicine. After all, it’s now considered National Doctors’ Day – a day to recognize physicians and their countless contributions to society and their communities.

The first observance of National Doctors’ Day was in 1933, in Winder, Georgia. The wife of a local doctor wanted to have a day to honor physicians, and with the help of others, sent greeting cards and placed flowers on the graves of deceased doctors. Today, the red carnation is considered the symbolic flower for Doctors’ Day.

In 1991, President George H. Bush signed a bill that made National Doctors’ Day a day of celebration in the United States.

We’ll celebrate by giving thanks to the incredible doctors in our Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities and Long-Term Acute Care Hospitals. In both settings, our physicians are an integral part of the team that works with patients and their families to deliver the highest quality care possible.

Former Polish Prime Minister Eva Kopacz – who’s also a physician – wonderfully described the role of doctors as “a special mission, a devotion,” while saying that it called for “involvement, respect, and willingness to help all other people.”

Let’s all help celebrate National Doctors’ Day by giving physicians in our community a sincere word of thanks for their long hours, hard work, and constant care.

You can also observe this special day by using #NationalDoctorsDay to post on social media.

 

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Sign Up for the 8th Annual Stride Out Stroke Run/Walk!

Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital will be holding the 8th Annual Stride Out Stroke Run/Walk on Saturday, June 3rd, 2017!

Proceeds will benefit Stroke Awareness within our community.

Click Here to download the Registration Form.
$15 in advance by June 2, $20 the day of the 5K.

Where:
Tate Pumphouse Trail Center on the Platte River
1775 West 1st Street, Casper

When:
7:00 am Sign-In/Registration
8:00 am Race Begins

Abbreviated route is available!

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The Role of Social Workers at Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities

To serve as a social worker means to serve in a variety of roles – usually on a daily basis. That’s certainly true of social workers who serve in inpatient rehabilitation facilities.

With March being National Social Work Month, it’s a great time to take a closer look at the many ways the nation’s more than 600,000 social workers serve the healthcare industry. And in an inpatient rehabilitation setting, where patients are recovering from disabling diseases, injuries, and chronic illnesses, social workers are an integral part of the medical team.

Social Workers in Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities

Social workers are key contributors in the rehabilitation and recovery of patients in inpatient rehabilitation facilities. Their roles may include:

  • The initial screening and evaluation of patients and families.
  • Helping patients and family members deal with the many aspects of the patient’s condition – social, financial, and emotional.
  • Helping patients and families understand their illnesses and treatment options.
  • Acting as an advocate for patients and families – including as an advocate for the patient’s health care rights.
  • Aid and expedite decision-making on behalf of patients and their families.
  • Educating patients on the roles of other members on their recovery team – including physicians, nurses, physical therapists, etc.
  • Crisis intervention
  • Providing a comprehensive psychosocial assessment of patients.
  • Educating patients and families about post-hospital care.
  • Helping patients adjust to their inpatient rehab setting.
  • Coordinating patient discharge and continuity of care following discharge.

Serving as a Patient/Family Advocate

As mentioned, one of the key roles that social workers serve in an inpatient rehabilitation setting is as a patient advocate. The importance of helping the patient understand and adjust to hospital procedures, understand medical plans, and assisting the patient’s family with financial planning is crucial.

The social worker’s role as an advocate also includes maintaining open lines of communication between the patient, family, and other members of the health care team. He or she also will learn each family’s dynamics while understanding its strengths – and encouraging the use of these strengths.

Indeed, the pressure on families as a loved one moves through the health care system can be intense and there’s a lot to learn in a short time. Social workers ease this pressure on all levels, whether it regards the plan of treatment or financial needs.

Studies have shown that the more informed the patient, the better healthcare decisions he or she will make during their treatment and post-recovery. In turn, this results in better long-term health outcomes while also saving money.

While some healthcare facilities will have trained volunteers serving as patient advocates, social workers are more qualified to serve in an advocate role based on their education, training, and experience. At Ernest Health Systems, we believe that social workers are an essential part of a patient’s recovery team.

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A Heart Attack’s Effect on the Brain

It’s estimated that someone suffers a heart attack approximately every 40 seconds in the United States – or about 720,000 people each year. While many heart attack victims recover and resume their normal lives, others have to deal with lingering physical effects, such as changes in the brain.

Specifically, heart attacks and other forms of heart failure can cause a loss of gray matter in the brain, and a decline in mental processes.

What Happens During a Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when blood that brings oxygen to the heart is cut off, or severely reduced. Coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart can narrow because of fat buildup and other substances. When an artery breaks, a clot forms around the substance and blood flow is restricted to the heart muscle.

Oxygen and the Brain

The brain needs adequate oxygen to function normally. Research has shown that brain cells begin to die when oxygen levels drop significantly low for several minutes or longer. After an extended period, a permanent brain injury may occur. This type of injury is known as an anoxic brain injury, or also cerebral hypoxia.

There are four types of anoxia – with each potentially leading to brain damage – including stagnant anoxia, in which an internal condition (such as a heart attack) blocks oxygen-rich blood from reaching the brain.

Cognitive Issues Associated with Heart Attacks

A recent study by Sweden’s Lund University said that half of all heart attack survivors experience memory loss, attention problems, and other cognitive issues. Lasting effects on the brain’s mental functions could even lead to possible dementia.

Brain scans done in similar studies showed that heart disease and heart failure might lead to losses of gray matter in the brain that are important for a variety of cognitive functions, which in turn lead to issues such as:

  • Memory Loss
    Most people who suffer an anoxic brain injury experience some short-term memory loss. The hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning new information, is extremely sensitive to a lack of oxygen.
  • Anomia
    Anomia refers to difficulty in using words, or processing the meaning of words. The patient may not remember the right word, or use a word out of context.
  • Poor Performance in Executive Functions
    Executive functions include reasoning, processing information, judgment, etc. For instance, the patient may become impulsive and indecisive.
  • Visual Issues
    Patients also may have trouble processing visual information.

Treatment

Immediate treatment is essential when dealing with cerebral hypoxia. The sooner the normal oxygen supply is restored to the brain, the lower the risk of brain damage. The type of treatment depends on the cause of the anoxic injury and may include:

  • Breathing assistance via mechanical ventilation and oxygen.
  • Controlling the heart rate and rhythm.
  • The use of medicines such as phenytoin, phenobarbital, valproic acid, or general anesthetics.

The patient’s recovery depends on how long the brain lacked oxygen. The patient might have a full return to function if the oxygen supply to the brain was blocked only for a short time. The longer a person lacks this oxygen supply, the higher the risk for serious consequences, including death, and severe brain injury.

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5 Tips on Caring For An Individual With a Brain Injury

When a loved one or family member suffers a brain injury, you may take the role of caregiver – a role that can be exceptionally challenging. At the very least, it’s a stressful time that can call on all of your mental and physical resources and abilities.

The fact is, few injuries are as devastating as a severe brain injury. The person who suffers one may behave, think, and see the world differently than he or she did prior. Providing support and being their caregiver, is often a delicate, demanding task. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind.

1.Structure is Vital

Maintaining a structured environment is essential for providing care to someone who’s suffered a brain injury. The structure will minimize potential issues by providing the individual a consistent, dependable way of life. It provides you (the caregiver) with a disciplined approach that accounts for most variables and inevitable challenges that may arise. It also means maintaining a schedule that provides as much activity as the patient can handle, without becoming overly fatigued.

2. Communication

Knowing what not to say to a person with a brain injury is just as important as knowing what to say. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Don’t tell them they’re not trying hard enough – Apathy, not laziness, is common after a brain injury. Recognize apathy and take steps to treat it.
  • Understand the invisible signs – A person with a brain injury often suffers from hidden signs such as fatigue, depression, anxiety, etc., and saying that they “look fine” to you is belittling.
  • Don’t complain about having to repeat yourself – Almost everyone who suffers a brain injury will experience some memory problems. Becoming frustrated that you have to repeat yourself only emphasizes the issue.
  • Remain patient when they’re not – Irritability is a common sign of a brain injury and it can come and go without reason. If you are always pointing out their grumpiness, it doesn’t help the situation.
  • Don’t remind them how much you do for them – The person may already know how much you do for them – and feels some guilt about it – or may not understand at all (depending on the severity of their injury).

3. Educate Yourself

Become involved in their recovery during the rehabilitation process. Doing so enables you to have a clear understanding of struggles the person will face, and strategies that you can implement at home to lessen the impact of these problems.

4. Be Aware of Changes in Behavior

Check with your physician whenever you notice any behavioral changes in your loved one, or person you are caring for. Seizures can develop after a brain injury and occur several months, or even years after the injury occurred. Your physician may recommend anti-seizure medications.

5. Take Time for Yourself

It can be easy to ignore personal fatigue and frustration while you’re caring for someone with a brain injury. Taking time for yourself, calling on the help of others, joining a caregiver support group – all are ways that can assist you from becoming physically and emotionally exhausted. Above all, be kind to yourself and give yourself credit for all that you do.

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Winter Safety: Preventing Sports-Related Head Injuries

There’s no such thing as cabin fever for the millions of people who participate in sports during the winter. From hockey to downhill skiing to sledding and snowboarding, the possibilities for recreational pursuits are many.

While perhaps not as common as other winter sports injuries, the number of concussions and other head-related injuries is certainly nothing to be ignored. Moreover, head injuries are the leading cause of disability and death among skiers and snowboarders.

Because they’re often performed at high speed and on slippery and hard surfaces, winter sports can lead to a variety of injuries. And that’s why preventing them is paramount.

By The Numbers

A study led by the John Hopkins School of Medicine said that approximately 10 million Americans ski or snowboard annually. Severe head trauma accounts for nearly 20 percent of all injuries related to those sports – including injuries that resulted in a concussion or loss of consciousness. While the number of skiers and snowboarders wearing helmets has increased over the year, few states have made helmets mandatory to participate in these sports.

The Danger of Concussions

According to the Centers for Disease Control, a concussion is considered a type of traumatic brain injury that’s the result of a blow or jolt to the head, or by a hit to the body that causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth. The sudden impact can damage brain cells and create chemical changes in the brain. Some common symptoms of a concussion include blurred vision, confusion, dizziness, vomiting, decreased coordination or balance, weakness, and swelling at the site of the injury.

If anyone you know notices these symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Preventing Head-related Injuries

Many winter sports-related injuries are preventable, and participants can play their favorite sport safely. Here are some tips for avoiding head-related injuries.

  • Always Wear a Helmet
    Wearing a properly-fitted helmet (one that fits securely on your head even when you’re wearing a hat or cap to stay warm) is perhaps the most important type of prevention. Be sure to replace your helmet after a serious fall or impact.
  • Know Your Limitations
    Take lessons and learn the fundamentals of your favorite sport before advancing to a more difficult level, especially on the slopes. Young children should never be allowed to play in snow and ice without adult supervision.
  • Know Your Surroundings
    Make sure you’re aware of any blind spots, sudden turns, or drop-offs before you hit the slopes. Ski or sled away from trees and avoid crowded areas when possible. Don’t wear headphones so that you can hear what’s going on around you.
  • Wear Appropriate Clothing
    Only wear clothing that’s appropriate for your favorite sport while never wearing clothes that interfere with your vision.
  • Know The Signs of Concussions
    There are a variety of symptoms associated with concussions, as mentioned previously, and these symptoms may occur right after the injury or for not even days and weeks.
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Benefits of Rehabilitation in Traumatic Brain Injuries

The primary goal of inpatient rehabilitation after a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury is for the patient to improve function – both physically and cognitively. But the course of treatment for one patient may be completely different for another.

Inpatient rehabilitation is for patients who have a traumatic brain injury that prevents them from returning home after their hospital stay (usually in an intensive care unit). But the goals in the ICU – which include achieving medical stability and preventing a medical crisis – are different from the goals of the inpatient rehabilitation team.

Common Problems Addressed by Inpatient Rehabilitation

There are four common issues that an inpatient rehabilitation team addresses when treating someone who has suffered a brain injury: thinking, physical, sensory and emotional.

  1. With thinking problems, patients often have difficulty with memory, language, concentration, judgment, and problem-solving.
  2. .Common physical problems include a lack of coordination, a loss of strength, as well as issues with movement and swallowing.
  3. Patients may also deal with sensory problems such as changes in vision, smell, hearing, and touch.
  4. Patients who’ve suffered brain injuries may deal with emotional problems such as mood changes, irritability, and impulsiveness.

The Benefits of Inpatient Rehabilitation

The specific therapies in an inpatient rehab facility for those suffering from brain injuries varies from patient to patient. Most patients will receive at least three hours of therapy per day, five to seven days a week. The patient will likely see a physician at least three times per week while the rehabilitation team will consist of a highly-trained team of practitioners including a rehabilitation nurse, physical and occupational therapists, a social worker, a speech-language pathologist, and others.

Your family will also be an important part of your rehabilitation team. They will get to know your team’s members, participate in therapy sessions when possible, as well discuss the discharge process.

Types of Inpatient Rehabilitation

Those who’ve suffered from brain injuries need varying levels of care, and the length of the recovery process depends on the needs of each patient.

Inpatient rehabilitation often begins as soon as possible after the patient has been determined to be medically stable. During the initial stages, the rehab team will often work with the patient to regain their activities of daily living: dressing, eating, toileting, walking, speaking, and more.

Once the patient is healthy enough to take on more intensive therapy, the next phase involves helping the patient develop the most independent level of functioning possible. Part of this rehabilitation may involve teaching the patient new ways to compensate for physical or cognitive abilities that have been permanently damaged by their injury.

The final stages of recovery often involve preparing the patient to return to independent living and/or work. Again, the family plays an important role in this process as they learn ways to make their loved one’s transition as easy as possible. Leaving inpatient rehabilitation can produce plenty of anxiety, but effective preparation will help ease those concerns.

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10 Ways to Help Those Who Are in the Hospital

Many of us know someone who will spend this time of year in a hospital, whether it’s a friend, neighbor, or family member. While they would obviously rather be home with family, there are many things you can do to bring them cheer while making their hospital stay more positive and meaningful.

Here’s a look at some of the ways you can bolster a patient’s spirits while providing comfort during days otherwise filled with doctor visits, treatment, preparing or recovering from surgery, and more.

1. Spend Time with Them

There’s probably nothing more important that you can do for a patient than spending time with them. Your presence will help the time go by more quickly for them while easing their anxieties and fears. And remember, laughter helps the healing process, so don’t leave your sense of humor at home.

2. Give Gifts

Gift-giving can be a great source of joy, and giving gifts to a friend or family member who’s in the hospital is no exception. It’s best if you give a gift that they can use such as an e-book reader or iPad. Another great idea is to give gifts to their family members, such as hospital parking passes, or a few nights stay at a local motel if they’re from out of town.

3. Help with Things at Home

While your friend is in the hospital, things at his or her home may be left undone – such as taking out the trash, getting the mail, feeding their pets, or watching their kids. You can even run their errands and take their children to lessons, sporting events, and school or seasonal parties.

4. Decorate their Room

You can make their hospital room more enjoyable by stringing colorful lights and supplying other festive decorations. You can also gift wrap the door with colorful paper and ribbons, or hang cards around the room.

5. Bring them Treats

Homemade cookies, baked goods and other treats can help lift a patient’s spirits.

6. Skype         

If a patient has a close friend or family member who lives far away, you can set up a Skype visit between the two.

7. Read to Children

Sharing read-aloud stories is a great way to lift the spirits of hospital-bound children.

8. Watch Movies

You can watch movies on a variety of digital devices these days, so schedule a movie-watching session with your hospitalized friend. Humorous movies will especially help lift their spirits.

9. Be a Listener

Most patients have plenty that they want to talk about when they’re in the hospital because, for many of them, being there is a new experience. You’ll help them feel better if you allow them to share their experiences without overdoing it with your stories and concerns.

10. Give the Gift of Music

Do you have a musical talent? Or, a group of friends who you like to play music with you? With the hospital’s permission, of course, you could sing in your friend’s hospital room or ask the floor nurse if you can play a mini-concert in the hallway for all patients on the floor.

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American Stroke Association Recommends In-Patient Rehab For Stroke Recovery

Over 750,000 people suffer a stroke each year in the United States, and quality physical therapy and rehabilitation are vital after the stroke to manage residual disability. Studies show that in-patient rehabilitation facilities are more effective in treating patients recovering from strokes.

In May, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Stroke Association (ASA) released guidelines for rehabilitation after a stroke. The ASA strongly recommends that patients receive treatment at an in-patient rehabilitation facility (IRF) whenever possible. Treatment in an IRF produces enhanced functional outcomes with a shorter length of stay than treatment at other facilities, such as a nursing home.

Why are in-patient facilities more beneficial to stroke patients? The AHA and ASA agree that there are a variety of reasons:

Extensive Rehab

A patient in an IRF receives at least three hours a day of rehabilitation from physical, occupational, and speech therapists. Nurses are available around the clock, and doctors usually visit on a daily basis. Being treated by a team approach also helps the patient understand the importance of their rehabilitation during the early recovery period from their stroke. Also, patients benefit most from the comprehensive, goal-oriented rehabilitation programs that IRFs provide.

The fact that stroke patients have better overall outcomes and rehabilitation success in IRFs than in other facilities has been proven in studies for at least a decade. A 2006 study showed that IRF patients at the six-month mark of recovery had fewer ADL (activities of daily living) difficulties than patients treated in other facilities, as well as better functional improvements overall. Additionally, patients who suffered severe motor disabilities experienced better overall recovery and function through treatment in an in-patient facility.

Newest Technology and Equipment

IRFs often have access to the latest technology and equipment used in stroke recovery therapy. An example of new technology includes constraint-induced movement therapy, which is a way of forcing intensive skilled use of upper limbs that have been weakened by a stroke.

Aftercare

IRF staff members are trained to assist both the stroke patient and his or her caregivers in developing a structured program for when the patient returns home.

  •   This includes education about making changes in the home so that it’s safer, such as minimizing fall risks.
  •   Education and training on how to safely use assistive devices such as walkers, wheelchair, and canes.
  •   An individually-tailored exercise program so patients can safely continue their cardiovascular and overall fitness after their formal rehabilitation is complete.

The bottom line, experts say, is that a patient recovering from a stroke can fulfill their potential through a coordinated effort between a diverse team of professionals – such as that found at an in-patient rehabilitation facility – as well as the patient, their family, and caregivers.

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Is Your Healthcare Provider Joint Commission Accredited?

Choosing the right healthcare provider for you and your family isn’t something to be taken lightly. After all, you’re seeking the best quality care and highest patient safety you can find for you and your loved ones.

One way that you can ensure the provider you choose meets the highest standards is by checking if it has Joint Commission accreditation. The Joint Commission evaluates and accredits thousands of healthcare organizations in America. It’s independent, non-profit, and the nation’s oldest and largest accrediting (and standards setting) body in health care.

What is The Joint Commission?

The Joint Commission consists of a 32-member Board of Commissioners made up of physicians, nurses, administrators, quality experts, educators, and a consumer advocate. It employs approximately 1,000 people in its surveyor force and at its offices in Illinois and Washington D.C.

Joint Commission accreditation can be earned by a wide variety of healthcare organizations, including nursing homes, hospitals, doctor’s offices, providers of home care services, and behavioral health treatment facilities. A healthcare organization must undergo a survey at least every three years to earn The Joint Commission’s highest standard – the Gold Seal of Approval.

The Benefits of Joint Commission Accreditation

Choosing a provider that has Joint Commission accreditation not only ensures that you’re choosing one that’s meeting the highest quality and patient safety standards, but also one that provides many benefits:    

 

  • Community Commitment
    An organization that has earned accreditation from The Joint Commission is committed to providing the highest quality healthcare services.
  • Strong Patient Safety Efforts
    Joint Commission-accredited facilities place patient safety and quality of care issues at the forefront
  • Improved Quality of Care
    Joint Commission standards focus on strategies that help healthcare organizations improve their safety and quality of care on a continuous basis. These standards reduce the risk of error or low-quality care.
  • Professional Advice and Counsel
    Joint Commission surveyors are experienced professionals trained to provide expert advice and education during their on-site survey at a healthcare facility.
  • Highly Trained Staff
    Joint Commission-accredited facilities can attract qualified, quality personnel who prefer to work with an accredited organization. Also, accredited organizations provide opportunities for staff to develop their knowledge and skills.
  • Recognized by Insurers
    Accreditation is a prerequisite to eligibility for insurance reimbursements in some markets, as well as for participation in managed care plans or contract bidding.

 

Choosing a healthcare organization that has earned accreditation by The Joint Commission is the best choice for you and your family for many reasons. You’ll feel confident in knowing that you’ll be getting the kind of quality, safety-first care that meets the highest standards.

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National Caregiver Month: Take Care to Give Care

Perhaps no one understands the challenges of caregiving more than a caregiver. Sure, that seems obvious, but caregiving is a unique occupation that includes its share of rewards, but also its share of physical and mental stress.

November is National Caregiver Month and this year’s theme is “Take Care to Give Care.” It addresses caregiving’s challenges and the need for caregivers to take care of themselves while taking care of others.

How can you, as a caregiver of someone who is in an inpatient rehabilitation facility or long-term acute care hospital, ensure that you’re meeting your own physical and mental needs? Here are some tips:

 

  • Don’t Always Put Yourself ‘Last’
    The list of caregiving responsibilities can be long, indeed, from managing medications to monitoring your patient’s progress, and it can be easy to forget about your personal needs – sometimes to the point of sacrificing your own health. That’s why it’s helpful to set personal health goals such as making a commitment to be physically active a certain number of days per week or establishing a consistent sleep routine.
  • Proper Nutrition is Vital
    It’s important to maintain your strength, energy, and stamina to meet the demands of your day-to-day duties, while also strengthening your immune system. A great way to do this is by making sure you’re getting proper nutrition and maintaining a healthy diet.
  • Understand How the Stress of Caregiving Impacts Your Health
    Research has shown that one out of five caregivers say that they have sacrificed their physical health while performing their occupational duties. Caregivers, whether family caregivers or those who provide care in a professional setting, have on average more health and emotional problems than people in most other occupations. For example, caregivers are twice as likely to suffer depression and are at increased risk for many other chronic conditions.
  • Rest. Recharge. Respite.
    You may feel that there’s not enough time to rest and recharge your batteries. But doing so is vital, especially when you consider that caregivers are at a higher risk of health issues due to chronic stress. Take advantage of every opportunity to re-energize and give your mind and body a break.
  • Seek Support From Other Caregivers
    Take time to find out about caregiving resources in your community. A caregiver support group can provide problem-solving strategies but also validation and encouragement. It can also be a place to develop meaningful relationships.
  • Accept Help
    It can be easy to put all the burden on your shoulders while believing that you shouldn’t have to ask for help. But create a list of ways that others can help and don’t be afraid to ask, or accept, their help.
  • Focus on What You Can Do
    There’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ caregiver, and it’s important to remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can at any given moment or situation. Focus on the positives and believe that you’re making the best decisions.

 

 

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Getting Through the Holidays With a Hospitalized Loved One

There are many reasons to love the holidays – whether it’s traditions, spending time with family and other loved ones, and a variety fun, rewarding activities. But it’s no secret that they can also be a time of stress, and if you’re a caregiver or family member of someone who’s in an inpatient rehab or long-term acute care hospital, the extra stress can add up in a hurry.

It can be easy to get overwhelmed this time of the year and slip into unhealthy habits such as overeating, skipping exercise, and getting less sleep. The following tips can help you deal with the stress and keep yourself on track until things return to “normal.”

Be mindful

Take stock and acknowledge all of your emotions throughout the day – fear, frustration, sadness, joy, etc. Remember, these emotions are perfectly normal, and there’s no need to overreact to any of them. Just acknowledge each moment (and thought) rather than letting your mind focus only on your growing to-do list.

Recognize the signs

More specifically, recognize the signs of burnout and stress. Prolonged stress drains your energy and motivation to provide the proper care and attention to patients and loved ones. And a good sign that you’re burned out is when you feel as if nothing you do as a caregiver will make a difference.

Prioritize

You know your calendar is going to full this time of the season as you juggle the duties of your family and your role as a caregiver. Prioritizing enables you to decide what obligations and traditions are expendable and those that aren’t.

Don’t neglect self-care

As a caregiver, you know that you must sometimes put the needs of others before your own but neglecting your self-care can exacerbate stress. Make sure that you’re getting proper exercise, proper sleep, that you’re participating in fun activities, and that you’re not overloading on sugary foods that can precede an emotional crash.

Seek support

Whether it’s through online message boards or support groups, it’s always a good idea to rely on others to help you carry the load. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help – both for yourself and those under your care. You can enlist the services of a home-cleaning business, or ask a friend about running errands for you. Remember there are only so many hours in a day and those hours can become limited during the holiday season.

Embrace new traditions

If long-held family traditions such as preparing, cooking, and serving large holiday meals are too much for you don’t be afraid to start new traditions, like eating out at a favorite restaurant instead. Or, you can also give the gift of time rather than give costly presents. Simplifying your holiday activities is a good strategy to reduce your levels of stress. You’ll still enjoy the spirit of the season while choosing the activities that are most meaningful to you and your family.

What are your hot buttons?

The holidays can stir up toxic activities or relatives that create more stress or unhappy memories. You may want to avoid certain places, events, and people – or, at the least, develop quick exit strategies.

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Treating Diabetes through Rehabilitation

For many, a healthy diet and regular exercise are self-prescribed ways to feel better. But for people with diabetes, diet and exercise often are medically recommended to help treat the disease.

Diabetes is a disorder where either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells in the body do not recognize the insulin.

To understand diabetes, you first need to understand the role of insulin in your body. When you eat, your body turns your food into sugar, also called glucose. At that point, the pancreas releases insulin to open the body’s cells to allow the sugar to enter so it can be used for energy.

But with diabetes, the system doesn’t work.

Without insulin, the sugar stays and builds up in the blood. So the body’s cells starve from the lack of glucose. If left untreated, complications can develop with the skin, eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart.

There are different types of diabetes, with the most common form called type 2 or adult onset diabetes. People with this type of diabetes can produce some of their own insulin, but often it’s not enough. Some of the common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling very hungry even when you’ve eaten
  • Blurry vision
  • Fatigue
  • Slow healing cuts or bruises
  • Tingling, pain or numbness in hands or feet

Treatment for diabetes usually includes diet and exercise – and medicine if sugar levels remain high after lifestyle adjustments. At rehabilitation hospitals, diabetic patients often are provided a medically supervised care plan that includes physical exercise and healthy eating strategies.

Exercise helps control diabetes because it allows glucose to enter the cells without the use of insulin. It also can help lower blood glucose levels and blood pressure. In addition, exercise assists in weight loss and improves balance and energy levels.

A combination of both aerobic exercise and resistance training has the most positive effect on blood glucose levels. Physical therapists can help individualize and supervise exercises that will be the most beneficial to a patient. They monitor the exercise program to ensure safety and progress, while improving and maintaining sugar levels. The exercise plan can be carried out at home after the individual leaves the hospital.

A healthy diet also is integral to managing diabetes. How much and what types of foods are eaten affect the balance of insulin in the body and make a difference in blood glucose levels. Dietitians at rehabilitation hospitals can teach patients about carbohydrates in food, how it affects the glucose levels, and they provide practical strategies for healthy cooking and eating.

Typically through rehabilitation hospitals, patients not only receive treatment, but are educated on how to manage the disease to the best of their ability in their everyday lives. This helps them to live as independently as possible.

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Understand Your Risk: COPD and Pneumonia

November is COPD Awareness Month, and it focuses on a disease that’s the third-leading cause of death in the United States. It’s also a disease that more people suffer from than ever before – while many others have it and don’t know it.

Fortunately, COPD and pneumonia are manageable with the right health care approach. Moreover, identifying who’s most at risk for developing COPD is clearly important, as is educating family members and caregivers about the disease and its effects.

What is COPD?

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a lung condition that affects a person’s ability to breathe. Many serious and life-threatening complications can arise from COPD, including pneumonia.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a lung infection that actually describes some 30 types of infections. It’s dangerous because it reduces the amount of oxygen in the body – sometimes greatly – and can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, or inhaled particles or liquids. For COPD patients, life-threatening complications can develop rapidly and be fatal if not treated. People who suffer from COPD and other lung conditions are at a greater risk of developing pneumonia.

How is Pneumonia Treated?

If your physician suspects that you may be suffering from pneumonia, he or she may order a chest X-ray, CT scan, blood tests, and other tests to determine the cause of the infection. If it’s due to a bacterial infection, antibiotics will likely be your first treatment. It’s important to not only take antibiotics as directed but to take all of them. Halting your antibiotics can allow the bacteria to come back stronger than ever.

Viral pneumonia will likely require antiviral medications, and your doctor may prescribe an inhaler or oral steroid.

No matter the type of pneumonia, treatment must be immediate to prevent permanent damage to the lungs. Treatment may even include a stay in an intensive care unit, and a ventilator will speed oxygen to depleted cells, as well as eliminate excess carbon dioxide.

Who’s Most at Risk?

Smoking is the main risk for COPD and many people who smoke or used to smoke suffer from COPD. Other risk factors include:

  • Age. Most people who have COPD are at least 40 years old when they first notice symptoms.
  • Long-term exposure to lung irritants such as secondhand smoke, chemical fumes and dust from the workplace or environment, and air pollution.
  • Family history. People who have a family history of COPD are more likely to develop the disease, particularly if they smoke.

What are Symptoms?

The signs of COPD and pneumonia can include:

  • Shortness of breath that doesn’t improve but gets worse.
  • A chronic cough. In the case of pneumonia, you may cough up a dark yellow or green mucus.
  • Congestion that lasts for more than a few days.
  • Fever, chills, and ongoing fatigue.

At first, COPD may cause only mild symptoms, but symptoms grow worse over time. And severe COPD can cause other symptoms, such as a fast heartbeat, swelling of the feet, ankles, and legs, and weight loss.

The Importance of Prevention

If you suffer from COPD, it’s crucial that you do everything you can to prevent pneumonia. The easiest thing you can do is get an annual pneumonia vaccine. Getting a yearly flu shot is also important, because illnesses like the flu can easily lead to pneumonia in people with COPD. And keeping yourself as physically healthy as possible through diet and exercise is another important preventive measure.

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Functional Improvement: Amputation and Prosthetic Care

There’s no denying that amputation or the loss of a limb is a life-changing experience. It not only involves a tremendous physical loss, but also can be emotionally devastating. If you’re facing, or already have had, an amputation, know that you’re not alone – there’s around 1.7 million people living with limb loss in the U.S. alone.

Working with experienced professionals such as those at Ernest Health Systems who can help you through every step of the process – including prosthetic care – is vital.

Post-Operative Care

There are several options for post-operative care after you’ve had an amputation. In many cases, a rigid dressing is placed on the residual limb that protects the surgical site. A removable dressing can be taken off and put back on to allow medical staff to carefully monitor the surgical site.

Another option is a post-operative prosthesis that’s applied in the operating room immediately after surgery. Studies have shown that patients who wear an immediate prosthesis feel more optimistic and tend to recover more quickly than patients who don’t. It’s an option worth discussing with your physician and prosthetist.

Recovery

Putting things in perspective is an important early step in the recovery process. That’s not easy after a life-altering event such as an amputation, but your struggles with grief and acceptance are perfectly normal. It’s important that your friends and family will also struggle along with you, and it’s important to enjoy every success and accomplishment on your road to recovery while not focusing too much on the obstacles.

Physical Therapy

An important piece of your recovery is physical therapy. While it’s often challenging and hard work, physical therapy helps loosen the residual limb and increases muscle tone and coordination. It also helps keep joints flexible while teaching you how to use your prosthesis properly, particularly during daily activities.

Prosthetic care

Quality prosthetic care is essential to your recovery. Your prosthesis is a sophisticated tool designed to enhance your activity level and independence. As time goes on, you will become more dependent on it. Here are some things to keep in mind in terms of caring for your prosthesis.

  • Your prosthesis is a mechanical device that will sometimes require maintenance and repair. Visiting with your clinician at least once a year will help detect potential problems that can be resolved before your prosthesis becomes unusable.
  • Your medical team will give you a schedule that gradually increases the amount of time you wear your prosthesis. Everyone’s situation is different, but most people start with a couple of hours a day before progressing to wearing it all day after a few weeks.
  • It’s important to wear your shrinker or elastic bandage when you’re not wearing your prosthesis.
  • Using an assistive device such as a cane during the first several weeks will help you gradually get used to placing your weight on the prosthesis.
  • Remain physically active even when you’re not wearing your prosthesis. This will help build your stamina.

Personal Hygiene and Prosthetic Care

The residual limb can be subject to perspiration because it’s enclosed in a plastic socket. This can be a source of bacteria and should be monitored closely; you can try sprinkling baby powder on it or apply over-the-counter antiperspirant.

Rehabilitation and Teamwork

Your rehabilitation will be part of a process that involves a team of specially-trained people – including your physician, prosthetist, physical therapist, and other. This team will guide you and help you learn how to use your prosthesis correctly in a safe environment.

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The Role of Support Groups for Caregivers Dealing with Strokes

As caregiver for a loved one who has suffered a stroke, you play an important part in the recovery process from the beginning. But it’s a role that also comes with many challenges and can cause high levels of mental, physical and emotional stress – both for you and the stroke survivor.

Many caregivers feel inadequately prepared to deal with the challenges of caring for someone with disabilities brought on by a stroke. But that’s why the importance of support groups – and support in general – cannot be emphasized enough.

Caregivers and Support

It’s estimated that there are 5 million stroke survivors alive in the U.S. today, with nearly 30% of them being permanently disabled as a result of their stroke. The acute nature of the disease puts extra stress on caregivers who are typically serving their same roles within their own family while also handling the duties of a caregiver.

  • Emotional Support
    According to one study, the importance of emotional support for caregivers is crucial. And the importance of informal support is similarly important, because many caregivers are apprehensive about seeking formal support for a variety of reasons, including financial and time spent apart from the care recipient.
  • Caregivers, Physical Help and Overall Health
    Caregiving can take its toll physically, as one study indicated that caregivers suffer from a variety of physical symptoms, including, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, disrupted sleep patterns, as well as a variety of emotional symptoms such as sorrow. These symptoms can increase as caregivers get older, and emphasizes the importance of friends, family, or outside help, in assisting with the physical aspects of care, including the activities of daily living. Over 80% of participants of one study reported fatigue and stress because of their caregiver duties.
  • Online Support
    The emergence of the Internet has made healthcare information available 24 hours a day and has become an important resource for caregivers. Professionally-managed online support groups are gaining credibility, and are giving caregivers the opportunity to receive personalized information through discussion groups, and also the opportunity to talk live with nurse specialists.
  • Psychological Role
    The importance of social support, which includes both emotional and physical support, has been shown to have a positive impact on a caregiver’s psychological well-being. Without assistance or support, however, experts agree that the caregiver can become the “second patient” within a family. The good news, however, is that support is available in ways that it never was before.

 

 

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