Returning Home After A Stroke

As your loved one prepares to leave the hospital or rehabilitation center, there are some things that you can do to ease his or her transition back to community living.

Discharge Planning

The key to your loved one’s readjustment to everyday life is discharge planning, a systematic process involving a number of health-related disciplines coordinated by a single health provider. Discharge planning should begin long before your loved one is ready to leave the hospital or rehabilitation center, and it should include an assessment of your loved one’s living environment, caregiver and family support, disability entitlements, and potential for vocational rehabilitation. You, your loved one, and the rehabilitation staff can work together to help maintain the benefits of rehabilitation after your loved one has been discharged from the program.

The goals of your loved one’s discharge planner include:

  • Making sure that your loved one has a safe place to live.
  • Deciding what care, assistance, or special equipment will be needed.
  • Arranging for more rehabilitation services or for other services in the home (such as visits by a home health aide).
  • Choosing a health care provider who will monitor your loved one’s health and medical needs.
  • Teaching you the necessary skills to provide your loved one with daily care and assistance at home.
  • Helping your loved one explore employment opportunities, volunteer activities, and driving a car (if able and interested).
  • Discussing any sexual concerns the your loved one or you may have. Many people who have had strokes enjoy active sex lives.

Preparing A Stroke-Survivor-Friendly Living Place

Many stroke survivors can return to their own homes after rehabilitation. Others need to live in a place with professional staff such as a nursing home or assisted living facility. The choice usually depends on the survivor’s needs for care and whether caregivers are available in the home. Most importantly, your loved one needs an environment that’s safe, and that supports continuing recovery.

If your loved one is able to return home, members of his or her program staff may want to visit the house beforehand. They may suggest changes to make it safer, such as rearranging rooms so that your loved one doesn’t have to use stairs, moving scatter rugs or small pieces of furniture that could cause falls, and placing grab bars and seats in tubs and showers. It’s also a good idea for your loved one to go home for a trial visit before discharge. This will help identify problems that need to be corrected before he or she returns.

Adjusting To The Change

Going back to an old home or moving to a new one is a big adjustment for a stroke survivor. It may be hard to transfer the skills learned during rehabilitation to a new location. Also, more problems caused by the stroke may become evident as your loved one tries to resume old activities. During this time, you and your loved one will discover how the stroke will affect your daily lives, and you’ll probably have to make a few adjustments—adjustments that can be a physical and emotional challenge for you both.

As a caregiver, you have many new responsibilities and you’ll have to be prepared to deal with the stress that comes with them. Caregiving that falls too heavily on one person can be very stressful, and even when family members and friends are willing to help, conflicts over caregiving issues can cause their own pressures. Learning to deal with this stress is an important part of keeping yourself healthy while you care for your loved one. Remember that you need support, understanding, and some time to rest, too.

Follow-Up Appointments

After your loved one returns to the community, he or she will probably have regular follow-up appointments with the doctor or with rehabilitation professionals. The purpose of follow-up is to monitor your loved one’s medical condition and ability to use the skills he or she learned in rehabilitation. It’s also important for doctors to determine how well everyone is adjusting to the changes brought about by the stroke. You can help your loved one prepare for these visits suggesting that he or she make a list of any concerns or questions to ask the doctor.

© Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Adapted from Recovering After a Stroke, AHCPR Publication No. 95-0664, prepared by the Agency for Healthcare Policy and Research.

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