Inpatient Rehab Hospital improves recovery outlook for stroke patients

During the long and harsh winter, which required what felt like endless hours of snow removal and clean-up, Coeur d’Alene resident Greg Nelson had a stroke.

His wife Jane Nelson noticed something was not right after he spent a January afternoon clearing snow out of the driveway. She recognized the signs of a stroke and they immediately sought help, since quick action and treatment offer the best chances for survival after a stroke and recovery from stroke-related disabilities.

The effects of his stroke initially left Greg unable to walk, speak properly and more.

Jane Nelson knew that they needed to find the best therapy care around for his recovery.

Greg Nelson went to the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Northwest located in Post Falls, Idaho.

“The level of care at Rehabilitation Hospital of the Northwest matched the level of care that we needed,” Jane said. “Greg is a type-A, over-achieving and I knew he needed the intensity of therapy offered here for the fastest recovery possible.”

At the rehab hospital, Greg was assigned a care team that worked collaboratively together to get him home as quickly as possible, ensuring he could get back to the highest level of independence attainable. The care team for a stroke patient like Greg usually includes a case worker, doctor, nurses, physical therapist, occupational therapist and a speech therapist.

Greg was impressed all around with his entire team.

“They always made sure I did everything I was supposed to do. Even when I didn’t think it was something I was ready for yet, they knew exactly how to push me to just the right level. I am thrilled about my recovery,” he said.

The rehab hospital provides patients with 24-hour rehabilitation nursing care and daily physician management.

Greg Nelson had a private patient room and access to well-equipped therapy areas. The therapy areas include a 2,360-square foot therapy gym with private treatment rooms, a heated aquatic therapy pool with an electric lift, and a therapeutic courtyard to allow practice on different terrains such as ramps, stairs, gravel, dirt, curb, curb cut-outs, and wood decking.

“My favorite therapy exercises were the arm bike and the stairs,” he said.

He worked with his team in these state-of-the-art therapy areas every day during his stay. His occupational therapist Melissa Ching focused on self-care goals that would help get him home and gain independence in activities.

“Greg is a hard worker. He was always dedicated to his therapy during his stay,” she said.

He also worked with Candice Frank, a physical therapist. With Greg’s stroke affecting his right side they focused on rebuilding and retraining it with forced use. She helped him stay safe and work at a safe pace for recovery.

“One of our goals is to help patients avoid falling, which can lead to other injuries. We also remind our patients and work with their family to help them know what to watch for when they return home,” she said.

Greg Nelson also worked with Cheri Rose-Kociela, a speech therapist. Her work covers more than just speech: memory, thinking process, actual speech production, language and swallowing.

“I didn’t realize that learning how to swallow properly again would be something that was part of therapy,” he said.

Most of the speech therapy is based on the patient being as functional as possible.

“Sometimes my work also includes teaching patients how to use tools like a smartphone as a memory device, setting alarms and using the calendar function,” Rose-Kociela said.

Most people don’t realize it, but stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. In fact, approximately 795,000 people suffer a stroke each year according to the American Heart and Stroke Association.

About 610,000 of these are first attacks, and the rest are recurrent attacks. While strokes can happen at any age, research shows that nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65. The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55.

The American Stroke and Heart Association released new guidelines strongly recommending that stroke patients be treated at inpatient rehabilitation facilities. The guidelines highlight the effective and important aspects of rehabilitation from an inpatient rehabilitation facility, including:

• Patients participate in at least 3 hours of rehabilitation a day from physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists
• Nurses are continuously available
• Doctors typically visit daily

The guidelines advocate for patients to go to inpatient rehabilitation hospitals because there is considerable evidence that patients benefit from the team approach in facilities that understand the importance of rehabilitation during the early period after a stroke.

Greg Nelson’s stay at Rehabilitation Hospital of the Northwest was only about two weeks. He made great strides in gaining back his ability to walk, speak and perform self-care activities independently.

In fact, he walked out of the rehab hospital using a walker; and now several months later he only needs a cane when out and about.

“But I can walk around the house without one.” His wife Jane is happy to see him smiling again and getting back to his usual self. Greg notes, “I’m even back to walking the dog now.”

(photo) Greg and Jane Nelson visit Rehabilitation Hospital of the Northwest. Greg was a patient there following a stroke in January.