Preparing Patients and Families for Life After a Stroke
strong>By Cathy Crawford, RN
Nurses play a vital role in caring for and supporting stroke patients and their families. As patients prepare to return home after having a stroke, it is important to educate them about lifestyle changes they may need to make to reduce their risk for recurrent stroke, as well as help them be as independent as possible. The impact that a stroke has on patients and their families varies greatly, but proper preparation is the key to maintaining the patient’s optimum well-being.
Prevent a recurrent stroke. Nurses can help stroke patients build the best defense against experiencing another stroke by emphasizing compliance with recommended lifestyle changes. These changes may include:
- Maintaining a heart-healthy, low-fat, low-sodium diet.
- Managing hypertension by taking medication as prescribed and monitoring their blood pressure regularly.
- Managing diabetes by eating a balanced diet and exercising to the patient’s level of ability. Exercise improves blood sugars and contributes to weight loss.
- Stopping smoking by taking advantage of smoking cessation resources.
Watch for warning signs and seek treatment FAST. Even if a patient has had a stroke, warning signs of a recurrent stroke are often missed. Nurses can help patients and their families know how to think F.A.S.T.:
- Face: Check the face for weakness. Can the patient smile?
- Arms: Check the arms for weakness. Can the patient raise both arms?
- Speech: Can the patient speak clearly?
- Time: Act quickly. The window of opportunity for treatment of a stroke is small – patients or their caregivers must call 911 and get to the hospital within three hours of the onset of the stroke.
Methodist Dallas Medical Center, Methodist Charlton Medical Center and Methodist Richardson Medical Center are designated Advanced Primary Stroke Centers by the American Stroke Association. For more information on careers at Methodist Health System to manage the full spectrum of care, from acute hospitalization through outpatient services through rehabilitation, please visit Jobs.MethodistHealthSystem.org.