Story by: Norton Healthcare on February 2, 2018
Surviving a stroke is the beginning of a recovery that encompasses not only physical challenges, but can include emotional, social and financial ones as well.
Norton Healthcare is the only health care system in Louisville with a neuroscience resource center to help patients navigate their lives after a stroke. Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Center services are free.
The resource center is part of Norton Neuroscience Institute and is completely supported by the Norton Healthcare Foundation.
“With a stroke, one day you’re fine and the next day you’re not,” said Brittny Wannemuehler, R.N., a stroke nurse navigator and former intensive care unit nurse. Wannemuehler contacts patients in the first week after they’ve been discharged from the hospital.
She goes over the medications they’ve been prescribed, checks to see if someone has been to the pharmacy to pick them up and makes sure patients can afford them.
During the initial call, Wannemuehler makes sure patients have a neurology follow-up appointment within a month of their discharge. She also talks to them about risk factors that could have caused their stroke and what they can do to lower their chances of a second stroke. Half of stroke patients have another stroke.
Stroke patients often need physical or occupational therapy, and Wannemuehler helps arrange those appointments. In addition to physical limitations caused by stroke, patients frequently have problems with short-term memory and other cognitive deficits. Half of stroke patients suffer from poststroke depression and anxiety.
The center offers two stroke support groups, one for older patients and a second for patients age 59 and younger. The groups feature guest speakers on topics including nutrition, sleep disorders, wellness and estate planning.
With younger stroke patients, Wannemuehler helps them navigate issues related to work and child care. Stroke can leave a family’s breadwinner or caregiver unable to work or care for the children.
“Now all of a sudden you’re the one being taken care of. It not only changed your role, it changes your whole family’s role,” Wannemuehler said. “It flips your whole world upside down, and the world you knew before is definitely different.”
The resource center helps stroke patients find transportation and offers exercise classes. A dietitian develops customized diet plans for patients. The center also can help with issues such as access to medical care and medical equipment, disability assistance, housing decisions, financial issues and employment advice.
Wannemuehler has helped find housing for a homeless patient, smoking cessation classes for a patient whose insurance wouldn’t cover it, and a primary care physician for a patient who recently moved to town.
As patient navigator, Wannemuehler follows patients for a year as they reintegrate into life and the community. She said Norton Healthcare’s commitment to patients once they’ve left the hospital is rare.
“I feel as a country we do a very good job on stroke care when patients are in the hospital. When patients go home, they just fall through the cracks,” she said.
Wannemuehler said Norton Healthcare is committed to offering care and support as they continue their recovery after leaving the hospital.
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