News/Blog

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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The Latest Technology Trends in Rehabilitation

Choosing the right rehabilitation hospital for yourself or a loved one is an important decision. You probably have plenty of questions to ask, as well as a set of criteria that must be met before you make your final choice.

But your decision will be made easier if the hospital you’re considering has kept up with the latest technology. That’s why Ernest Health Systems are a great fit: they have the latest in rehabilitative technology that’s at the foundation of superior patient care. That technology includes LiteGait, Dynavision, and VitalStim Therapy.

LiteGait

LiteGait creates an ideal, safe environment for treating patients with a wide range of impairments, and who are at different functional levels. How does it work? Through its unique harness design, LiteGait eliminates concerns for balance while training coordinated lower extremity movement, while also providing proper posture.  The LiteGait system makes it possible to adjust the weight-bearing load on the weaker side of the body by either increasing or decreasing it. It also allows the technician to assist the patient’s legs and pelvis in helping to achieve proper gait patterns. LiteGait is used in an environment that’s free from falls.

For patients, its benefits are many and include re-learning to walk with proper postures, and also beginning gait training earlier in the rehabilitative process. Moreover, it helps patients experience a sense of accomplishment.

Dynavision

Dynavsion is designed for use in rehabilitation facilities, and is a device that improves patients’ visual and motor skills that have been affected by diseases or injuries. It also allows each patient to have their own personalized rehabilitation program that best suits his or her needs – a feature that separates Dynavision from other physiotherapy devices.

Patients who use Dynavision can improve their peripheral visual awareness, hand-eye-coordination, visual attention and anticipation, as well as visual-motor reaction time. At the same time, it’s providing physicians and physical therapists with the necessary data to evaluate the patient’s gross motor skills, response to visual stimuli, and his or her ability to perform neuro-cognitive tasks.

Dynavision can be used to successfully improve the abilities of patients who may have limitations from a stroke, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, amputations, and orthopedic injuries.

VitalStim Therapy

Dysphagia, or trouble swallowing, is a common condition among stroke and brain injury survivors, and VitalStim Therapy has been proven effective in the treatment of it. VitalStim therapy involves external electrical stimulation that helps re-train the muscles needed to complete the swallowing process. Electrodes are attached to the patient’s neck and a small current is used to stimulate nerves. Over time, this therapy helps to gradually re-train the necessary muscles.

In clinical trials, VitalStim has been shown to be two or three times more effective than traditional stimulation techniques. It’s clearly an important treatment for patients with dysphagia – in which symptoms can range from mild discomfort while swallowing to losing the ability to swallow.

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Utilizing Exercise to Reduce & Prevent Falls

When a toddler or child falls, he or she is likely to just shake it off and keep moving. The same is true of many young adults. But when a senior falls, the consequences can be severe – including broken bones that lead to limited mobility and a downward health spiral.

Worse, each year thousands of older Americans die as a result of breaking a hip. Finding a solution that helps decrease the number of falls for this segment of the population is clearly important. And one area that has proven to be successful in terms of fall prevention is exercise.

How Exercise Helps

Structured exercise combined with balance training helps reduce falls. Balance training remains the foundation of fall prevention programs, but exercise helps in that it:

  • Makes muscles stronger and more flexible. Stronger and larger muscles can buffer the impact of a fall and provide some protection to joints and bones.
  • Improves endurance
  • Increases how long a person can be active
  • Combining exercise and balance training enables the person to have a faster reaction time, which is important in stopping a fall (by grabbing something) before it happens.
  • Resistance exercises strengthen bones, making them more resistant to fractures in the event of a fall.

Exercises That Help Build Better Balance

There are a variety of exercises than can be done almost anywhere and at anytime that will help with fall prevention. Experts advise starting out with two or more days of exercise a week, and going slowly with exercises your doctor has said are right for you. Always breathe slowly and easy when exercising.

Here are some specific exercises that can be done to help improve balance:

 

  • Single-leg Stance
    Standing up straight with your feet together and arms at your sides, slowly lift your right leg off the floor. Hold this position for as long as you can, and then repeat with your left leg. Maintain good posture throughout this exercise and focus on a spot straight ahead. If you feel comfortable, you can even do this exercise while waiting in line at the store.
  • Toe Stand
    Start by holding on to something for support of balance – such as the back of a chair – and, keeping your back straight and knees slightly bent, push up on your tiptoes as high as possible. Then slowly lower your heels to the floor. Repeat this 10 to 15 times.
  • Leg Extension
    Leg extensions can make your thigh muscles stronger. Sitting in a straight-back chair with your feet on the floor, straighten one leg out in front of you as much as possible. Then lower your leg back down slowly. Repeat this 10 to 15 times with each leg.
  • Back Leg Stretches
    Stretching the back of your leg will increase flexibility and strength, while making it easier for you to get around. Sitting in a straight-back chair, place one foot on a stool in front of you. Straighten the leg that’s on the stool and then lean forward and try to touch your foot with your hand. Hold this stretch for 10 to 20 seconds, and repeat five times with each leg.

 

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Why a Flu Shot is the Best Way to Prevent Influenza

Influenza is a serious, potentially deadly disease that affects countless people in the United States every year. And flu “season” can last a long time – beginning as early as October and lasting even into late May. That said, flu shots are of utmost importance when it comes to preventing the virus for people of all ages, including people 65 and over, who can account for up to 90% of all flu-related deaths each year.

The Importance of A Flu Shot

Getting an annual flu vaccine (either a flu shot or nasal spray vaccine) is the best prevention of getting seasonal flu and potentially spreading it to others. The more people that get a flu shot, the lesser the spread of flu in a community. It’s recommended that anyone six months or older should get a flu shot.

The Best Flu Vaccines For 2016-17

The Centers for Disease Control recommends the injectable flu vaccine for 2016 and not the nasal spray vaccine. Both trivalent and quadrivalent vaccines will be available.

The trivalent flu vaccines include a high-dose shot and a shot made with adjuvant – which helps create a stronger immune response – that is approved for people 65 and over. Quadrivalent flu vaccination includes an intradermal shot, which is injected into the skin and not the muscle and uses a much smaller needle. The intradermal shot is approved for anyone from 18 to 64 years old.

How Flu Vaccines Work

Flu vaccines are effective because of antibodies that develop in the body shortly after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection. Both trivalent and quadrivalent vaccines protect against against the influenza A viruses H1N1 and H3N2, as well as an influenza B virus. The quadrivalent vaccine also protects against an additional B virus.

Flu vaccines are often updated each year to keep pace with changing viruses.

Who Should Get Vaccinated

Again, the CDC recommends that anyone 6 months of age or older should get a flu vaccine every season. The flu vaccination is particularly important for anyone at high risk of developing serious complications from the virus. People who are 65 or over are considered high-risk because human immune systems weaken with age.

If vaccine supplies are limited, an importance is placed on making sure certain people get vaccinated, including:

  • People ages 50 and over
  • Children 6 months through 4 years
  • Women who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season, and women up to two weeks after delivery
  • People who are residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
  • Health care personnel
  • Household contacts and caregivers of people with medical conditions that put them at a higher risk for severe complications of the flu.

There are many others who are included on this list, so make sure to check with your physician or the CDC website to see if you qualify for the high-priority list.

With fall just around the corner, the importance of getting a flu shot for the 2016-17 season cannot be emphasized enough. Not doing so places your health – and potentially the health of others – at an unnecessary risk.

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Physical Therapy: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Physical therapy helps people of all ages who have injuries, medical conditions, or illnesses that limit their day-to-day functioning. A physical therapy program can help you return to your prior level of functioning, as well as prevent further injury while improving your overall health and well-being.

 

Here are 10 reasons why physical therapy is so important and how it may benefit you:

1. Reduce Pain

There are a variety of exercises and manual therapy techniques, including ultrasound, taping, and joint and soft tissue mobilization that can not only relieve pain, but also restore function in the muscles and joints. It can even prevent pain from returning.

2. Improved Mobility

You may be struggling with walking and moving, or even just standing (no matter what your age), but physical therapy can definitely help. This includes strengthening and stretching exercises, devices that provide assistance such as canes and crutches, or by a proper orthotic prescription.

3. Avoid Surgery

Therapy can help you avoid surgery by eliminating pain and/or by healing an injury. If surgery is still required, pre-surgery therapy can help, because going into surgery stronger and in better shape can speed the post-surgery recovery process.

4. Recover/Prevent Sports Injuries

Different sports can increase your risk for specific types of injuries – i.e., stress fractures for runners – and your physical therapist can design recovery or prevention exercise programs that enable you to safely return to your sport.

5. Improved Balance

One of the things your physical therapist will do is a fall-risk screening. If it shows that you are at high risk, your therapist will provide exercises that mimic real-life situations while increasing your balance. You’ll also be provided with exercises to improve coordination, or devices that assist you in safer walking. If you suffer from dizziness or vertigo, your therapist will show you exercises that will restore proper vestibular functioning.

6. Manage Diabetes

Physical therapy is often part of an overall diabetes management program. Exercise can effectively help control blood sugar, while people with diabetes often have problems with sensation in their feet and legs that the therapist can address to prevent further issues down the road.

7. Recover From A Stroke

People who’ve suffered a stroke often lose some degree of function and movement. Physical therapy helps strengthen the weakened parts of the body while also improving balance and gait. Your physical therapist can also help you to transfer and move around in bed, which will make you more independent around the home.

8. Manage Heart and Lung Disease

If your daily functioning is affected by heart and lung disease, you may receive physical therapy along with normal cardiac rehabilitation (after a heart attack or heart procedure). It can also help improve your quality of life through conditioning, strengthening and breathing exercises.

9. Manage Women’s Health

Women have a number of specific health concerns, including issues involved with pregnancy and post-partum care. Your physical therapist can offer specialized management of issues related to women’s health, including breast cancer.

10. Age-related Issues

Conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis and joint replacement may develop as you age. Physical therapists are well-trained in helping patients deal with and recover from these issues.

 

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COPD Sufferers: What to Ask Your Healthcare Provider

If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)  you understandably have a lot of concerns. Aside from the breathing difficulties you’re experiencing, you have a lot of questions for your healthcare provider, including what is COPD and what are your treatment options. The bottom line is that your respiratory health is too important to not get all the information you can about COPD. Here are some important questions to ask your doctors.

What is COPD?

Your healthcare provider will tell you that COPD is a broad term to describe a variety of progressive lung diseases, including chronic bronchitis, asthma and emphysema. As you’re already aware, COPD’s primary symptom is increasing breathlessness as your body is unable to properly process oxygen through your lungs. You’ll also learn that you may have had COPD for longer than you think because you may not have noticed earlier symptoms. When it comes to their respiratory health, many people associate breathlessness as a natural part of aging, which isn’t true.

What causes COPD?

While your healthcare provider will tell you that smoking is the number one cause of COPD, he or she will also explain that there are other risk factors, as well. Those risks include genetic factors (AAT deficiency), working in high-risk industries that expose you to non-organic dust, such as mining and plastic manufacturing, as well as indoor pollution, such as second-hand smoke and radon.

What happens if I quit smoking?

If you’re a smoker, you’re well-aware of its dangers and harmful effects to your overall health, especially respiratory health. But here are some other facts you’ll want to take into consideration:

  • When you stop smoking the level of carbon monoxide in your blood is cut in half within 12 hours.
  • Your lungs will begin to repair themselves within a few weeks after you quit smoking.
  • By your 10th year of non-smoking, your lung cancer risk will be cut in half.

Will my medication have side effects?

Ask your doctor about any side effects that may occur from taking COPD medication. One important concern you should have is whether treatment for your condition could potentially damage other, healthy parts of your body.

What other changes can I make?

Quitting smoking will have a significant effect on the progression of COPD. But diet and exercise can also have a positive impact on your respiratory health. Ask your doctor about exercise programs designed specifically for COPD sufferers.

Will I need to be on oxygen?

Your doctor will measure the amount of oxygen in your blood by using a pulse oximeter, or by drawing blood. The goal is to keep your oxygen saturation level above 88 percent.

What stage am I in?

COPD is divided into four stages: mild, moderate, severe and very severe. Your doctor will determine what stage you’re in by using a pulmonary function test called spirometry. It’s important to note that COPD affects everyone differently, and can be determined by a variety of factors – including whether you smoke, how much you exercise, and your diet.

What shots or vaccines will I need?

It’s recommended that everyone with COPD should get a pneumonia shot – generally every five years – because pneumonia can easily deteriorate lung health. Flu shots are also important because the flu also weakens your lungs.

 

Choosing the right health provider is important in treating your overall respiratory health.

 

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Asthma Symptoms: 5 Signs Your Shortness of Breath is Serious

If you suffer from shortness of breath, you’re not alone. It’s a common symptom and one that prompts many people to see a doctor or seek other medical treatment. Knowing when your shortness of breath is an emergency isn’t always easy. It can be the result of hyperventilation, acid reflux, or a panic attack – cases when shortness of breath usually recedes on its own – or more serious issues involving your respiratory health. There are many possible causes of shortness of breath, as well as signs that it’s time to seek medical help.

Shortness of Breath and Its Causes

There’s no clear definition of shortness of breath, but most people describe it as a feeling of being unable to get enough air, or that breathing takes more effort than usual. Some people may feel chest tightness. Shortness of breath may come on in a matter of minutes, or develop chronically over much longer lengths of time.

In the vast majority of cases, shortness of breath is because of conditions related to the heart and lungs. Some of the more common causes include:

  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Asthma
  • Serious heart conditions, such as heart attacks or congestive heart failure
  • Pulmonary embolism (a blood clot that travels from another part of the body to the lungs)
  • Obesity
  • Lung disease
  • Bronchitis or pneumonia
  • A collapsed lung
  • If shortness of breath is chronic – meaning it has lasted for weeks or longer – it’s often due to any of the above causes.

Signs That You Should Call A Doctor

Your respiratory health is too important to ignore shortness of breath symptoms, but some signs should never be ignored:

  • Swelling in your feet and ankles
  • Trouble breathing when you lie flat
  • High fever, chills and cough
  • Wheezing
  • When your pre-existing shortness of breath worsens

COPD

COPD is a chronic lung disease that, as mentioned, is one of the most serious causes of shortness of breath. It’s considered a progressive disease in that its symptoms may be mild at first but become more severe over time. The symptoms of COPD may vary and include:

  • Chronic cough
  • Coughing up mucus
  • Labored breathing during both exercise and resting
  • Wheezing
  • Frequent colds or flu
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent morning headaches
  • Weight loss

People who suffer from COPD are also likely to have episodes known as exacerbations in which their symptoms suddenly become worse and persist for several days.

Asthma

Asthma is caused by inflammation of the bronchial tubes. This inflammation also results in the production of sticky secretions inside the tubes. When it comes to your respiratory health, asthma – like COPD – should never be taken lightly. Its symptoms are very similar to those associated with COPD: coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and, of course, shortness of breath.

As with COPD, asthma sufferers may go extended periods without experiencing any symptoms before having periods of systems (or asthma attacks). Others may only experience asthma during exercise, or when suffering from viral infections such as colds.

Evaluating Shortness of Breath

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may evaluate your shortness of breath by using pulse oximetry to estimate the amount of oxygen in your blood, an EKG, a chest x-ray, blood work, or pulmonary function tests.

It’s important to note that while you may suffer from COPD or asthma, your symptoms can still be managed – and allow you to lead a normal life – with the right health care team working with you.

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Prescott resident finds road to recovery after stroke through local hospital

Sixty-nine-year-old Tom Liaboe of Prescott was watching television this past winter when he stood up and unexpectedly fell. His wife, Carol, heard the noise and ran upstairs to find Tom on the floor. He was barely able to move his right side, part of his face was drooping, and he was having trouble speaking.

Tom had suffered a stroke. He had become one of the nearly 2,000 individuals in Northern Arizona who are admitted annually to area hospitals for strokes. Strokes are the leading cause of long-term disability in the nation, reducing mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over.

Tom, a retired network engineer, had always been an active individual. He enjoyed gardening, yard work and working on home projects – one of which was building gazebos. He and his wife had moved to Prescott eight months before his stroke, having purchased a three-level home.

“Because I was so active, both my wife and I were really surprised when my stroke occurred,” Tom says.

After initial treatment at a local hospital, Tom was transferred to Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. The hospital provides specialized physical rehabilitation services to patients recovering from disabling diseases and injuries like stroke. The hospital is nationally certified by The Joint Commission in Stroke Rehabilitation.

When Tom entered Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, he was unable to walk or speak. His right side was still extremely weak. A multidisciplinary medical team worked with Tom and Carol to develop customized goals for his recovery, which included receiving intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy treatments. Both he and Carol say they could really feel the impact from the teamwork.

“It was what I needed to recover,” Tom says. “I wanted to work as hard as I could to regain my abilities, which the staff helped me with. But, I never felt overworked or pushed beyond what I could do.”

After one month of inpatient rehabilitation, Tom began receiving care in his home through Mountain Valley Home for Health, the hospital’s home health arm. The home health team continued to work with Tom (and Carol), providing the therapies he needed to help him continue his healing. While providing treatment, the team taught Tom how to safely navigate the stairs in his house, how to get in and out of the shower, and how to walk securely in the neighborhood.

“I now can function in all three levels of my house,” Tom says. “I use the upstairs shower and bedroom. And I walk in the neighborhood for exercise. But, my favorite workouts now are water exercises in the pool. They really help me stretch my muscles.”

Carol says she considers her husband’s recovery “miraculous,” and says Tom’s neurosurgeon, Dr. Harvey Thomas, calls him his “miracle patient.”

“I’m really pleased that I have reached this level of ability again,” Tom says. “And, I credit that to everyone who helped me along the way – especially my rehabilitation team.”

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A Day in the Life of a Speech-Language Pathologist

It can be difficult to fully describe the role of a Speech-language Pathologist, as the rehabilitative work they do throughout their days is extremely varied and complex. In order to give our readers a more accurate idea of what an SLP does, we asked one to tell us a little more about her patient work here at an Ernest Health Hospital, as well as walk us through her activities throughout the day.

EH: Can you share with us what a typical day looks like for you?

SLP: I get to work around 7 or 7:30 a.m. to help patients with using their safe swallow strategies during breakfast.

We have a short staff meeting at 8:00 to quickly discuss appointments, discharge plans, medical complications, etc. I treat patients from 8:30 to 12. I personally have more energy in the morning, so I try to see my patients then and save documentation for the afternoon

I document daily/weekly progress notes during lunch and begin therapy again at 1:00. I have 2-3 sessions in the afternoon, and then I need to write daily/weekly notes. Part of my role in the afternoon is to look at the patients we will have in the evening and which therapists will be coming in for the evening shift and get the patients signed out to a therapist accordingly.

Some of the things that I have to think about as I’m evaluating patients is: Are the patients sticking to their diet? Are they ready for advancement? How are they handling the diet?

EH: What does the majority of your work involve at Ernest Health, and how would you describe the majority of the patients you work with?

SLP: I provide individual sessions and group therapy sessions two days a week. The majority of my patients have cognitive impairments that limit their ability to make safe decisions.

Stroke and head injury are the majority of the causes.

EH: What treatments/therapies do you use to work with your patients at Ernest Health?

SLP: For dysphagia (swallowing issues): I use myofascial release therapy and e-stim (electrical stimulation) modalities.

Myofascial release therapy is a treatment for patients with dysphagia that aims to loosen up muscles in the cervical area to allow for more contraction in swallowing.

E-stim modalities are used for neuromuscular re-education, which is a technique used to help the patient contract the muscles used in swallowing to teach the patient what it should feel like. E-stim machines can be used for a variety of purposes, though, and all depends on the settings (pain management, muscle contractions, etc.).

One of our SLP’s main focuses is keeping the patient safe by educating them and family members on things like locking the wheelchair and using the call light for help. In addition to these practices, she also does her best to find fun and fresh ways to help retrain patients to their former levels of functionality. Using music therapy and technology like iPad games, for instance, allows the patient to learn in a way that feels less like work and more like recreation.

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Her empathy for the patients, dedication, and caring personality are shining examples of the qualities that Ernest Health values in its team members.

EH: Why did you choose Speech-Language Pathology as a career?

SLP: I chose to be an SLP because I wanted a career that would make a positive impact on someone’s life.

My first semester in undergrad, I, by chance, saw a class schedule with a class about Communication Disorders.  I decided to take it and knew from the beginning this was what I wanted to do with my life.

EH: What hobbies or interests do you have?

SLP: I teach fitness classes before and/or after work. My alarm usually goes off at 4:30 so I can fit in my hobbies. My husband and I enjoy traveling, skiing, and fly fishing together.

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Speech-Language Pathology’s Role in Stroke Recovery

Stroke recovery is a complex process that varies from one patient to the next. Because of this, speech-language pathologists play an important role in a stroke patient’s rehabilitation. Last week, we discussed how a speech-language pathologist could help a stroke survivor regain their ability to read. However, with one fourth of stroke patients suffering from language impairments, an SLP usually plays a sizable role in most stroke patient’s recovery. Here are a few of the responsibilities you can expect them to take part in during the recovery process.

They make a plan.

Because every stroke is different, and every patient is different, it is only natural that every recovery plan is different as well. Speech-language pathologists work with their inter-professional team but also work with a patient’s case history and their family to come up with a plan that will work for every individual patient. Creating a successful rehabilitation plan requires an SLP to know the patient medically and personally. A speech-language pathologist’s close involvement throughout the treatment allows them to alter the rehabilitation plan if necessary.

They help patients relearn how to communicate.

Depending on which area of the brain is affected by the stroke, patients may either have difficulty communicating their thoughts through words or writing, or have difficulty understanding spoken or written language. Either way, an SLP’s education equips them with the ability to help both of these conditions. They use different techniques and exercises to help patients circumvent their disabilities such as making symbol cue cards or simply repeating phrases with their patient. All of this is done with the end goal of helping the patient relearn their communication skills or learn new methods of communicating. 

They help patients with self-awareness.

Although speech and language are in the title, speech-language pathologists help with much more than that. SLPs also help stroke patients regain their self-awareness. This can mean anything from helping a patient learn that they don’t swallow all of their food during meals, to learning how to comb their hair. A speech-language pathologist may set up different daily challenges such as basic cleaning, to personal grooming to help a patient recover their self-awareness. These skills will help a stroke survivor’s day to day life become less frustrating as their recovery goes on. 

The extensive duties of a speech-language pathologist in stroke recovery differ with each patient, but for every patient they make an incredible difference. We are committed to bringing the best care to our patients, and because of that, we appreciate the speech-language pathologist on staff!

 

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Stroke Survivors and Reading

When one experiences a stroke, many parts of the body are often affected, requiring physical therapy and exercise in order to reach a previous level of mobility. What this also means is that, in order to recover the energy used in various therapies, patients must spend a lot of time resting. In these periods, boredom and depression can settle in, making pleasurable distractions, like reading a book or magazine, a welcome escape.

Unfortunately, a frustrating discovery that many stroke patients experience is that reading (something they were likely proficient at before) has suddenly become a struggle. Words either seem to disappear or escape their grasp, and sentences are overwhelming.

Alexia- what it is:

Reading difficulties after a stroke are often referred to as “alexia” or “acquired dyslexia.” When the left side of the brain experiences damage or trauma, it is common for language abilities to suffer due to the fact that most language functions occur in the left hemisphere.

Reading impairments, along with the damage to language function, are also commonly caused by visual disruptions. Symptoms such as double vision or blind spots in words and sentences make even silent reading a struggle, and the act of communicating it verbally can seem almost impossible.

How a stroke affects reading:

Because Alexia occurs after a patient has fully developed their reading abilities, there are usually remnants of language skills still functioning. For example, many stroke survivors find it easier to read silently to themselves than to read aloud. Word retrieval is an incredibly common difficulty among stroke survivors, so coupling the act of visually comprehending with audibly reading can cause stress and confusion.

Depending on the extent and location of the damage, however, even silent reading can become severely impaired. Words that aren’t easily sounded out based on their letters, or those that are abstract in nature, commonly create frustration for stroke survivors.

How to work around reading impairments:

Couple listening with reading. One way to enjoy a favorite form of entertainment and work toward the correction of reading impairments is to pair media with printed words. By watching a TV show or movie with the captions turned on, a patient can experience the words through sight and sound simultaneously. Similarly, reading a physical book while listening to that same book on tape will provide an opportunity to match the look of words to their sounds and pronunciations.

Remove the written part of a task:

Another way to work around alexia is to simply remove the written part of a task to gain more independence. A task like visiting the grocery store in order to stock the pantry can become very overwhelming for someone who is having trouble reading. Rather than writing out a shopping list, many stroke survivors have found that creating a list using product logos and pictures allows them the independence to accomplish this previously simple task.

Talk to a Speech Language Pathologist. An SLP is trained to, among many other things, diagnose cognitive problems caused by strokes. By getting a formal diagnosis, an SLP will then be able to work with a patient and his or her needs, so that they may come up with a personalized treatment plan.

The SLP will use exercises, such as sounding out and naming letters, to help a stroke survivor work through their reading impairment and make progress toward reaching their previous level of ability.

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