News/Blog

National Doctors’ Day

The world of medicine was changed forever on March 30, 1842, with the first documented use of anesthesia during surgery.

While the accomplishments of doctors has continued to evolve  – and amaze – since then, March 30 remains a special day in the world of medicine. After all, it’s now considered National Doctors’ Day – a day to recognize physicians and their countless contributions to society and their communities.

The first observance of National Doctors’ Day was in 1933, in Winder, Georgia. The wife of a local doctor wanted to have a day to honor physicians, and with the help of others, sent greeting cards and placed flowers on the graves of deceased doctors. Today, the red carnation is considered the symbolic flower for Doctors’ Day.

In 1991, President George H. Bush signed a bill that made National Doctors’ Day a day of celebration in the United States.

We’ll celebrate by giving thanks to the incredible doctors in our Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities and Long-Term Acute Care Hospitals. In both settings, our physicians are an integral part of the team that works with patients and their families to deliver the highest quality care possible.

Former Polish Prime Minister Eva Kopacz – who’s also a physician – wonderfully described the role of doctors as “a special mission, a devotion,” while saying that it called for “involvement, respect, and willingness to help all other people.”

Let’s all help celebrate National Doctors’ Day by giving physicians in our community a sincere word of thanks for their long hours, hard work, and constant care.

You can also observe this special day by using #NationalDoctorsDay to post on social media.

 

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The Role of Social Workers in the Long-Term Acute Care Setting

There’s no better time than now to highlight the role of social workers in the Long-Term Acute Care (LTACH) Setting. March, after all, is National Social Worker Month.

But the importance of the role and function of social workers in a LTACH is worthy of attention year-round. A social worker is a vital member of any health care team and serves in many different capacities, including as a liaison between the patient and the care community.

Let’s take a closer look:

Social Workers in the LTACH

  • Making the Transition
    The social worker helps the person entering a long-term acute care facility to help them make a transition to the LTACH from an acute care hospital. Once the patient is in their new setting at the LTACH, the social worker continues to see that his or her needs are met, and that they are participating in planning for continued care now and in the future.
  • Identifying Resources
    Social workers help patients identify resources to meet their individual needs. They also serve as the patient’s advocate in dealing with insurance providers to secure the most comprehensive coverage possible.
    In fact, serving as the patient’s advocate is one of the most important roles.
  • Working with Patients’ Families
    A social worker in an LTACH setting spends much of their time with a patient’s family and friends, and must always be aware of factors that have an impact on the patient’s well-being.
    Patients and families deal with many aspects of a specific illness, including learning more about it, the diagnosis, and the steps in the recovery process. A social worker helps them deal with each step that hopefully leads to a safe recovery.
  • A Wide Range of Tasks
    Typical duties for social worker may include: interaction with potential residents and their families, pre-admission and discharge planning, and assessment and completion of the part of the minimum data required for each patient.

The LTACH social worker will also:

  • Contact and utilize community resources on the resident’s behalf.
  • Ensure that the social and emotional needs of each patient are met.
  • Promote the maximum level of independence for each resident.
  • Participate fully in resident care planning as part of an interdisciplinary team.

In all cases, the social worker provides a physical environment that is supportive while fostering a positive self-image for residents through social contact, independence, and decision-making opportunities.

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A Heart Attack’s Effect on the Brain

It’s estimated that someone suffers a heart attack approximately every 40 seconds in the United States – or about 720,000 people each year. While many heart attack victims recover and resume their normal lives, others have to deal with lingering physical effects, such as changes in the brain.

Specifically, heart attacks and other forms of heart failure can cause a loss of gray matter in the brain, and a decline in mental processes.

What Happens During a Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when blood that brings oxygen to the heart is cut off, or severely reduced. Coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart can narrow because of fat buildup and other substances. When an artery breaks, a clot forms around the substance and blood flow is restricted to the heart muscle.

Oxygen and the Brain

The brain needs adequate oxygen to function normally. Research has shown that brain cells begin to die when oxygen levels drop significantly low for several minutes or longer. After an extended period, a permanent brain injury may occur. This type of injury is known as an anoxic brain injury, or also cerebral hypoxia.

There are four types of anoxia – with each potentially leading to brain damage – including stagnant anoxia, in which an internal condition (such as a heart attack) blocks oxygen-rich blood from reaching the brain.

Cognitive Issues Associated with Heart Attacks

A recent study by Sweden’s Lund University said that half of all heart attack survivors experience memory loss, attention problems, and other cognitive issues. Lasting effects on the brain’s mental functions could even lead to possible dementia.

Brain scans done in similar studies showed that heart disease and heart failure might lead to losses of gray matter in the brain that are important for a variety of cognitive functions, which in turn lead to issues such as:

  • Memory Loss
    Most people who suffer an anoxic brain injury experience some short-term memory loss. The hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning new information, is extremely sensitive to a lack of oxygen.
  • Anomia
    Anomia refers to difficulty in using words, or processing the meaning of words. The patient may not remember the right word, or use a word out of context.
  • Poor Performance in Executive Functions
    Executive functions include reasoning, processing information, judgment, etc. For instance, the patient may become impulsive and indecisive.
  • Visual Issues
    Patients also may have trouble processing visual information.

Treatment

Immediate treatment is essential when dealing with cerebral hypoxia. The sooner the normal oxygen supply is restored to the brain, the lower the risk of brain damage. The type of treatment depends on the cause of the anoxic injury and may include:

  • Breathing assistance via mechanical ventilation and oxygen.
  • Controlling the heart rate and rhythm.
  • The use of medicines such as phenytoin, phenobarbital, valproic acid, or general anesthetics.

The patient’s recovery depends on how long the brain lacked oxygen. The patient might have a full return to function if the oxygen supply to the brain was blocked only for a short time. The longer a person lacks this oxygen supply, the higher the risk for serious consequences, including death, and severe brain injury.

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10 Things to Know if Your Loved One is On a Ventilator

For patients who are unable to breathe on their own, mechanical ventilation is used to provide life-sustaining oxygen. Ventilation is a process that requires the diligent care of a medical team and a weaning process.

If you have a family member or loved one on a ventilator, here are some things you should know:

1. What is a Ventilator?

A ventilator is a machine that supports breathing, and is used mainly in a hospital or rehabilitation setting. Medical issues or conditions that make it hard for the patient to breathe necessitate that a ventilator is used to aid the breathing process.

2. How Does a Ventilator Work?

A ventilator helps get oxygen into the lungs of the patient and removes carbon dioxide (a waste gas that can be toxic). It is used for life support, but does not treat disease or medical conditions.

3. Who Needs a Ventilator?

Many conditions, such as pneumonia, COPD, brain injuries, and strokes require the use of a ventilator. If you have a loved one with a disease or condition that impairs their lung function, a ventilator will be employed. The use of a ventilator is also common when someone is under anesthesia during general surgery. A patient may not even know they were connected to a ventilator after the completion of the surgery or medical procedure.

4. Risks of Being on a Ventilator

Patients on ventilators run a higher risk of developing pneumonia because of bacteria that enters through the breathing tube. It can also make it difficult for them to cough and clear airways of irritants that can cause infections.

5. Eating While on a Ventilator

The breathing tube will prevent the patient from eating normally, so a different tube that provides nutrients, may be inserted into their vein. Patients who are on long-term ventilation may require a feeding tube directly inserted into the nose or mouth, or through a hole made in the stomach.

6. When Sedation is Used

Sedation is often used for patients on long-term ventilation, although there’s plenty of debate in medical circles concerning the over-use of sedation. The use of sedation often depends on the patient; a patient who is calm during normal life is usually calm on a ventilator while in an ICU unit.

7. A Ventilator Restricts Your Movement

A patient’s activity and movement are significantly limited while on a ventilator. While they may be able to sit up in bed or in a chair, their mobility is otherwise limited.

8. Your Care Will Involve a Team Approach

The medical team that closely monitors patients on a ventilator includes: doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, X-ray technicians, and more.

9. Will the Ventilator be Painful?

There’s usually little or no pain when on a ventilator.

10. Ventilator Weaning Process

Weaning is the process of taking someone off of a ventilator, so that they may begin to breathe on their own. The process usually begins with a short trial, in which they’re still connected to the ventilator, but allowed to breathe on their own. The ventilator is removed once it’s clear that the patient can breathe on their own.

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Flu Complications: The Importance of Immunizations

The flu is much more than an illness that simply leaves you bedridden for a few days. In some cases, it can lead to hospitalization and even death; in fact, estimates by the Centers for Disease Control say that flu-related hospitalizations since 2010 number in the hundreds of thousands.

With numbers like those, the importance of immunizations is obvious.

What is The Flu?

Influenza is a respiratory infection that can cause moderate to severe health complications – from ear infections to pneumonia while triggering other severe issues such as inflammation of the heart and multi-organ failure. Typical flu symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea, particularly in children

How Does The Flu Vaccine Work?

Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body that protect against infections caused by the disease. Vaccines are available both by injection and nasal spray, although the CDC recommends not using the nasal spray as protection against the flu in 2016-17.

There are two types of flu vaccines available, trivalent and quadrivalent. Trivalent vaccines are so named because they consist of three components, and includes a high-dose shot that’s approved for people 65 and over. Quadrivalent vaccines consist of four components.

Trivalent vaccines are considered more traditional and protect against the H1N1 and H3N2 viruses and an influenza B virus. Quadrivalent vaccines protect against an additional B virus.

Who Should Get The Flu Vaccine?

The CDC recommends that everyone six months or older should get an annual flu shot. The vaccination is important for everyone, but especially so for those who are at high risk for influenza complications – including pregnant women, older adults, and young children.

Also, certain chronic medical conditions can increase your risk of serious flu complications, such as asthma, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory complications, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, HIV/AIDS, obesity, and kidney or liver disease.

Why Should I Get A Flu Shot Every Year?

The flu virus changes every year, and new vaccines designed to keep with those changes are released annually. Last year’s vaccine might not protect you from this year’s virus, while antibodies produced by your immune system decline over time.

Who Shouldn’t Be Vaccinated?

You should check with your physician before getting the flu vaccine if you’re allergic to eggs (most flu vaccines contain a small amount of egg protein), or if you’ve had a severe reaction to a previous flu vaccine.

When Should I Get The Vaccine?

You should get immunized as soon after the latest flu vaccine becomes available, which is typically in early fall. But vaccinations are usually offered as long as viruses are circulating. Most flu seasons usually peak in January and even later.

The bottom line is that the flu shot is the single best way to protect yourself from the flu and potentially serious complications that come with it. And flu shots are now widely available – including at pharmacies – and don’t require an appointment.

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7 Ways to Tame COPD Flare-Ups in Winter Months

If you’re a COPD sufferer whose symptoms are worse in the winter, you’re not alone. Studies show that the number of patients needing treatment for COPD exacerbations is twice as high in the winter as during the summer.

Why is this so? One reason is that cold weather affects the lungs by causing dramatic changes to the respiratory system. For some individuals, breathing cold, dry air forces their body to produce more shifts in temperature and moisture in the airway because there is a greater volume of air that needs to be warmed and humidified.

No matter the exact cause, the bottom line is that COPD sufferers need to take extra precaution in the winter to avoid serious flare-ups – not the least of which is avoiding the frigid air as much as possible. Here are some strategies:

  • Always Cover Your Nose and Mouth

Covering your nose and mouth while outdoors in the winter is essential if you’re a COPD sufferer. A scarf works well, as does a painter’s mask. At the least, cup your hands and use them to cover your nose and mouth.

  • Get Flu and Pneumonia Shots
    Viruses and infections will make your COPD symptoms worse. Make sure you get a flu shot annually and consult with your physician about getting a pneumonia shot.
  • Wash Your Hands
    Your mother was right – you need to wash your hands! Seriously, a strong defense against germs and COPD symptoms is a high standard of hygiene. Carefully wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. It’s even more important when you’re in public places.
  • Stay hydrated
    Drinking plenty of water will make it easier for you to breathe, especially if you have a respiratory infection.
  • Avoid People Who Are Sick
    It’s sometimes easier said than done, particularly in a workplace (or if you work with and around children), but it’s important to avoid sick people whenever possible. If you do catch a cold or the flu, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible.
  • Add Humidity To Your Air
    Keeping your home from becoming too dry during the winter months is also essential if you suffer from COPD. Use a humidifier and clean it every other day to keep it functioning at its optimal level.
  • Avoid Smoke and Fumes
    This is an important strategy at any time of the year, but take extra caution in the winter if you’re heating your home with a fireplace, kerosene, or by other means. Lung irritants such as wood smoke can cause COPD exacerbations.

How to Know That You’re Having a Flare-Up

There are numerous signs that indicate when you’re having a COPD flare-up:

  • Your shortness of breath is suddenly worse and you experience wheezing.
  • You’re coughing more – with or without mucus.
  • If you have mucus, the amount or color may change.
  • You have a fever.
  • You suddenly feel very tired.
  • You become confused or depressed.

No matter what your symptoms are, it’s always important to see your doctor when they get worse. Prevention strategies combined with prompt action will help you stay healthy throughout the winter months.

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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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