AHA, ASA recommend rehabilitation programs over nursing facilities after strokes

Under new stroke guidelines, major medical societies agree that sending patients to rehabilitation programs is crucial to post-stroke care.

The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association released the update on May 4 and provided several reasons why they preferred rehabilitation over skilled nursing facilities.

With rehabilitation, multiple parties are involved in caring for patients and making sure their needs are met.

“If the hospital suggests sending your loved one to a skilled nursing facility after a stroke, advocate for the patient to go to an in-patient rehabilitation facility instead – unless there is a good reason not to – such as being medically unable to participate in rehab,” Carolee J. Winstein, PhD, the chair of the guidelines committee, said in a news release. “There is considerable evidence that patients benefit from the team approach in a facility that understands the importance of rehabilitation during the early period after a stroke.”

The researchers noted that fewer people are dying from strokes now. Between 2000 and 2010, the relative rate of stroke deaths decreased by 35.8 percent. Another study released on May 11 found the age-adjusted hospitalization rates for acute ischemic stroke decreased by 18.4 percent from 2000 to 2010.

Still, the rate remains high, and post-stroke care is essential to reduce the mortality risk. Despite the benefits rehabilitation programs, the researchers warned they would not work unless physicians, nurses, patients, family members and others are on the same page.

“Communication and coordination among these team members are paramount in maximizing the effectiveness and efficiency of rehabilitation and underlie this entire guideline,” the researchers wrote. “Without communication and coordination, isolated efforts to rehabilitate the stroke survivor are unlikely to achieve their full potential.