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Stroke Action Plan standardizes care and rehab

April 2, 2014

Initiative to roll out across province this year a

Story and Photo by Colin Zak

After having a stroke in November, Elwood Kirkpatrick just wanted to get home and back to his normal life.

Kirkpatrick was able to do just that, thanks to the Stroke Action Plan – a provincewide initiative designed to improve the quality of inpatient and community care for stroke patients in rural and small urban areas.

The Stroke Action Plan uses provincial standards to ensure inpatient stroke care in small urban and rural settings is equivalent to the care delivered in larger centres, and that patients have early access to rehabilitation services following admission for stroke, including in-home rehabilitation known as Early Supported Discharge.Stroke survivor Elwood Kirkpatrick performs a motor skills test as therapy assistant Jolene Boutin observes.

“After I returned home from hospital, they were at my house the following day to start my rehab,” says the 77-year-old Red Deer man.

“Every day, I was visited at home by a qualified team that would do all the necessary treatments to get me back to my normal lifestyle. I usually had two visits a day, five days a week.”

The in-home rehabilitation team includes physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, therapy assistants, nurses, recreational therapists and social workers.

This program, now available in Red Deer, has reduced by half the average length of hospital stays for stroke patients in Calgary and Edmonton.

Red Deer is the first of several centres in Alberta to implement the initiative, which will be rolled out to communities across the province later this year.

“Early Supported Discharge not only allows patients to return home sooner and regain their independence, but allows them to receive one-on-one rehabilitation while going about their daily activities,” says Jeff Wright, an Alberta Health Services (AHS) occupational therapist and the project leader.

So far, 20 stroke survivors in the Red Deer area have been helped by the Stroke Action Plan since it launched last August.

“The Stroke Action Plan will take some of the successes we’ve had in large stroke centres and translate them to rural and small urban settings,” says Dr. Tom Jeerakathil, an AHS stroke neurologist and one of the project leads.

As part of the Stroke Action Plan, Grande Prairie, Camrose, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat will receive enhancements to both inpatient and outpatient services, including the addition of Early Supported Discharge teams.

For patients who have had mild, moderate and severe strokes, this means improved care both during and after their stay in hospital.

Smaller centres – such as of Peace River, Westlock, Fort McMurray, Cold Lake, Wainwright, Lloydminster and Brooks – will receive enhancements of inpatient services for stroke patients, as well as improved stroke training and education.

The Stroke Action Plan was developed by the Cardiovascular Health and Stroke Strategic Clinical Network (SCN) of AHS.

“One of our goals is to improve the prevention, treatment and management of heart disease and stroke across the province,” say Dr. Blair O’Neill, Senior Medical Director of the Cardiovascular Health and Stroke SCN.

“The Stroke Action Plan will ensure stroke patients receive the same level of care, everywhere in the province – rural and urban.”

The Stroke Action Plan is one of nine projects undertaken so far by AHS’ SCNs, which are devoted to improving care in AHS priority areas: cardiovascular health and stroke; cancer care; seniors care; obesity, diabetes and nutrition; bone and joint health; addiction and mental health; surgery; critical care and emergency medicine.

For Kirkpatrick, it translated into a faster recovery after his stroke.

“I’m so excited by my progress already. I can now walk on my own up and down the steps, my speech is returning to normal and I feel good about myself.”