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Better if Stroke Victims Go Home

May 5, 2000

DALLAS (AP) _ Stroke victims appear to make a faster recovery if they are sent home earlier from the hospital, a study found.

Stroke patients undergoing at-home therapy mastered simple tasks such as walking up stairs, doing housework or working in the garden more quickly than those who had longer hospital stays, the researchers said.

``This is about being at home and being reintegrated back into society, which we’ve shown actually improves the physical well-being of these survivors,″ said Nancy E. Mayo, an epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal who led the study.

The findings were published in the latest issue of Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association.

Mayo and her team followed 58 patients who were chosen at random to go home early and 56 others, then tested both groups three months later to see how their rehabilitation was going.

The average hospital stay for the patients who were discharged early was 10 days _ six days shorter than the patients who underwent conventional rehabilitation in the hospital or at an outpatient clinic.

At the three-month mark, the stroke patients who went home early were already back to doing chores around the house and even walking several blocks for therapy. They also did better at resuming their roles as a parent or spouse and kept in closer touch with friends and neighbors.

The patients who underwent therapy at home all had a caregiver in the house and were visited by physical therapists and other aides.

Patients who received the traditional post-stroke care at hospitals or outpatient clinics were about five points behind the home-rehabilitation group when ranked on a physical well-being scale of one to 50.

The findings support other research that seem to point toward early hospital discharge once the patient is medically stable as the best way to get people back to a normal life, Mayo said.

``Rehabilitation should get people back to playing golf, back to work and driving the car,″ she said.

The study clearly points the way toward changing post-stroke care toward more home rehabilitation, said University of Kansas Medical Center epidemiologist Pamela Duncan, director of research at the hospital’s center on aging.

``It just means that if you can get the support at home, it really improves the quality of life for these patients,″ Duncan said.

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