Nearly 600,000 people over 65 have strokes every year in the United States, and about 25% have recurrent attacks. A stroke can turn your life upside down, and affect friends and family as well. Most hospital stays after a stroke last just four days, and patients often return home. Nearly half in fact are discharged home directly after their hospitalization.
While going back home is usually the goal, it can cause problems. For instance, with such a short amount of time in the hospital, there is little opportunity to get the information you need to know for your recovery. You are generally not in a position to absorb information anyway and don’t yet understand just what help you’ll need when you return home.
In an ongoing study on care transitions post stroke, patients and caregivers discussed in focus groups the many unexpected challenges they faced when they got home. It was clear that in the hospital they just didn’t know what they didn’t know.
The transition home is particularly challenging because patients and caregivers are not aware of or don’t have access to community and medical resources. As a result, about 20% of stroke patients who are discharged and sent home end up back in the hospital or in a rehab facility within 30 days. And up to half of all informal caregivers of stroke patients have health problems themselves as a result of the stress of providing care.
Going to a senior community that can provide rehabilitation services for a period of time after hospitalization is one option that might help ease the transition home. About a quarter of stroke patients are discharged to a rehabilitation facility first. While most people think they need to transition to a Skilled Nursing Facility, in fact many can simply stay in a more comfortable assisted living community.
What Can Going to a Senior Living Community Do for Me?
It can keep you safe. Strokes affect everyone differently, but common problems include weakness, paralysis and speech problems, problems with balance or coordination, pain or numbness, problems with memory or thinking, and tiredness. Going to a senior community gives you time to address these issues so that you will be less likely to fall or have other problems when you return home. It also gives you time to make modifications to your home that may be needed for your safety.
It can give you time. About one out of four of the 800,000 strokes in the U.S. are experienced by someone who has had a stroke before. Second strokes can be prevented with medical interventions and changes in lifestyle. Going to a senior community for rehabilitation gives you and your family time to learn how to prevent a second stroke, manage post-stroke disabilities and medications, and set up the services for when you get home.
Research has consistently found that earlier and more aggressive therapy is better for long-term stroke recovery. That means starting therapy earlier and moving to more difficult activities as quickly as possible. This can often be accomplished more easily in a rehabilitation program at an elder care community than at home. On-staff caregivers provide all the care that stroke sufferers need to be supported as they rehabilitate, while providing families peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are taken care of.
- By Amanda Toler Woodward, PhD
Amanda Toler Woodward, PhD is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at Michigan State University. She does research on services and supports for older adults including racial and ethnic disparities in access to services and international comparisons of service systems.
“Stroke Statistics,” The Internet Stroke Center.
“Improving Care Transitions for Acute Stroke Patients Through a Patient-Centered Home-Based Case Management Program,” Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.
“Transitional Care for Rehabilitation,” Seniorly.
“What is Assisted Living?” Seniorly.