This week marks National Nurses Week – and what better way to celebrate the men and women who have dedicated their lives to helping others than by highlighting the wisdom that they have shared in our own community?
Maife Santillan, registered nurse with the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, the nation’s largest home- and community-based health care agency helps Bronx seniors everyday manage a range of chronic diseases and life interruptions, including medical emergencies, like a stroke.
According to the American Stroke Association, someone living in the U.S. suffers a stroke every 40 seconds and more than 75 percent of these occur in people over the age of 65. Although fewer than 20 percent of strokes are fatal, stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability – and many stroke survivors will need help and attention for the rest of their lives.
Santillan has advice for stroke survivors and their loved ones to manage long-term recovery, including what to ask your doctor, therapies to consider and lifestyle and diet changes.
Step 1 – Know your numbers
Strokes range in severity, so it is important to know what limitations and conditions you may now face – from managing high blood pressure to cholesterol or blood sugar. Santillan advises, “Having a registered nurse work closely with your doctor to manage your at-home care will help in a smooth recovery, as he/she can evaluate your ongoing needs.”
Step 2 – Manage your medicines
Always discuss with your doctor the medications you are taking and what side-effects and/or potential drug or food interactions you can expect. Also, find out if over-the-counter drugs can have any negative impact. “A nurse can monitor your medications and help you develop a system that helps you remember to take it, like using a pillbox,” says Santillan.
Step 3 – Look at your lifestyle
Learn how you should modify your diet and how often you should exercise – whether that be physical, occupational or speech therapy. Santillan says, “Talk to your nurse, caregiver or family about ways to manage stress or sudden feelings of depression or anxiety.”
Step 4 – Plan ahead
Know how often you will need to be back at the doctor’s office and what tests to expect at these appointments. Plan to ask what other medical conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure, could affect your recovery. “It’s helpful to write down your questions for your medical appointment so that you don’t forget anything, and having a home care nurse can help address any questions following your appointment,” advises Santillan.
Step 5 – Fill in the blanks
Santillan tells her patients to ask their doctor “catch-all” questions that can help ensure they do not miss anything. Questions could include: “What else do I need to know?” or “What types of symptoms or changes should I report to you?” or “Are signs for a second stroke the same as the first?”
To learn more about programs that can help you or someone you love recover after a stroke, visit VNSNY.org or call 800–675–0391.
For more information about National Nurses Week, please visit here.