News/Blog

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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Getting Through the Holidays With a Hospitalized Loved One

There are many reasons to love the holidays – whether it’s traditions, spending time with family and other loved ones, and a variety fun, rewarding activities. But it’s no secret that they can also be a time of stress, and if you’re a caregiver or family member of someone who’s in an inpatient rehab or long-term acute care hospital, the extra stress can add up in a hurry.

It can be easy to get overwhelmed this time of the year and slip into unhealthy habits such as overeating, skipping exercise, and getting less sleep. The following tips can help you deal with the stress and keep yourself on track until things return to “normal.”

Be mindful

Take stock and acknowledge all of your emotions throughout the day – fear, frustration, sadness, joy, etc. Remember, these emotions are perfectly normal, and there’s no need to overreact to any of them. Just acknowledge each moment (and thought) rather than letting your mind focus only on your growing to-do list.

Recognize the signs

More specifically, recognize the signs of burnout and stress. Prolonged stress drains your energy and motivation to provide the proper care and attention to patients and loved ones. And a good sign that you’re burned out is when you feel as if nothing you do as a caregiver will make a difference.

Prioritize

You know your calendar is going to full this time of the season as you juggle the duties of your family and your role as a caregiver. Prioritizing enables you to decide what obligations and traditions are expendable and those that aren’t.

Don’t neglect self-care

As a caregiver, you know that you must sometimes put the needs of others before your own but neglecting your self-care can exacerbate stress. Make sure that you’re getting proper exercise, proper sleep, that you’re participating in fun activities, and that you’re not overloading on sugary foods that can precede an emotional crash.

Seek support

Whether it’s through online message boards or support groups, it’s always a good idea to rely on others to help you carry the load. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help – both for yourself and those under your care. You can enlist the services of a home-cleaning business, or ask a friend about running errands for you. Remember there are only so many hours in a day and those hours can become limited during the holiday season.

Embrace new traditions

If long-held family traditions such as preparing, cooking, and serving large holiday meals are too much for you don’t be afraid to start new traditions, like eating out at a favorite restaurant instead. Or, you can also give the gift of time rather than give costly presents. Simplifying your holiday activities is a good strategy to reduce your levels of stress. You’ll still enjoy the spirit of the season while choosing the activities that are most meaningful to you and your family.

What are your hot buttons?

The holidays can stir up toxic activities or relatives that create more stress or unhappy memories. You may want to avoid certain places, events, and people – or, at the least, develop quick exit strategies.

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Treating Complications Caused by Diabetes at Long-Term Acute Care Hospitals

Diabetes is a disorder where either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells in the body do not recognize the insulin. Often times, diabetes can be treated with exercise, a healthy diet and medication. But, complications can develop.

To understand diabetes, you first need to understand the role of insulin in your body. When you eat, your body turns your food into sugar, also called glucose. At that point, the pancreas releases insulin to open the body’s cells to allow the sugar to enter so it can be used for energy.

But with diabetes, the system doesn’t work.

Without insulin, the sugar stays and builds up in the blood. So the body’s cells starve from the lack of glucose. If left untreated, problems can develop with the skin, eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart.

Long-term acute care hospitals specialize in treating patients who may have more than one serious medical condition. Diabetes may be one of the conditions or may exacerbate existing conditions.

A common complication of diabetes is neuropathy, or nerve damage. According to the American Diabetes Association, about half of all people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage.  

Diabetic neuropathy often damages nerves in the legs or feet. Depending upon the affected nerves, symptoms can range from tingling, pain or numbness in the body’s limbs to problems with the digestive system, urinary tract, heart and blood vessels.

Because neuropathy can cause a lack of feeling in the limbs, especially the feet, injuries such as cuts can go unnoticed.

This can become serious. Not only does a person not feel if a foot becomes injured, but now if it is injured, the risk of infection is higher because diabetes restricts blood flow to the area. An infection can cause tissue to die and spread to the bone if not monitored properly.

Wound care treatments usually are provided to patients under these circumstances at long-term acute care hospitals. However, diabetic patients remain under close observation for other possible complications while being treated at the hospital as well.

Typically medical services at long-term acute care hospitals are tailored to the individual needs of patients. Many patients have more than one medical condition that needs to be treated at the same time – ranging from wound care and infectious diseases to strokes, respiratory failure or cardiovascular disease. Staff at long-term acute care hospitals take all that into account so the most effective care is provided to help patients heal.

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Understand Your Risk: COPD and Pneumonia

November is COPD Awareness Month, and it focuses on a disease that’s the third-leading cause of death in the United States. It’s also a disease that more people suffer from than ever before – while many others have it and don’t know it.

Fortunately, COPD and pneumonia are manageable with the right health care approach. Moreover, identifying who’s most at risk for developing COPD is clearly important, as is educating family members and caregivers about the disease and its effects.

What is COPD?

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a lung condition that affects a person’s ability to breathe. Many serious and life-threatening complications can arise from COPD, including pneumonia.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a lung infection that actually describes some 30 types of infections. It’s dangerous because it reduces the amount of oxygen in the body – sometimes greatly – and can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, or inhaled particles or liquids. For COPD patients, life-threatening complications can develop rapidly and be fatal if not treated. People who suffer from COPD and other lung conditions are at a greater risk of developing pneumonia.

How is Pneumonia Treated?

If your physician suspects that you may be suffering from pneumonia, he or she may order a chest X-ray, CT scan, blood tests, and other tests to determine the cause of the infection. If it’s due to a bacterial infection, antibiotics will likely be your first treatment. It’s important to not only take antibiotics as directed but to take all of them. Halting your antibiotics can allow the bacteria to come back stronger than ever.

Viral pneumonia will likely require antiviral medications, and your doctor may prescribe an inhaler or oral steroid.

No matter the type of pneumonia, treatment must be immediate to prevent permanent damage to the lungs. Treatment may even include a stay in an intensive care unit, and a ventilator will speed oxygen to depleted cells, as well as eliminate excess carbon dioxide.

Who’s Most at Risk?

Smoking is the main risk for COPD and many people who smoke or used to smoke suffer from COPD. Other risk factors include:

  • Age. Most people who have COPD are at least 40 years old when they first notice symptoms.
  • Long-term exposure to lung irritants such as secondhand smoke, chemical fumes and dust from the workplace or environment, and air pollution.
  • Family history. People who have a family history of COPD are more likely to develop the disease, particularly if they smoke.

What are Symptoms?

The signs of COPD and pneumonia can include:

  • Shortness of breath that doesn’t improve but gets worse.
  • A chronic cough. In the case of pneumonia, you may cough up a dark yellow or green mucus.
  • Congestion that lasts for more than a few days.
  • Fever, chills, and ongoing fatigue.

At first, COPD may cause only mild symptoms, but symptoms grow worse over time. And severe COPD can cause other symptoms, such as a fast heartbeat, swelling of the feet, ankles, and legs, and weight loss.

The Importance of Prevention

If you suffer from COPD, it’s crucial that you do everything you can to prevent pneumonia. The easiest thing you can do is get an annual pneumonia vaccine. Getting a yearly flu shot is also important, because illnesses like the flu can easily lead to pneumonia in people with COPD. And keeping yourself as physically healthy as possible through diet and exercise is another important preventive measure.

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Functional Improvement: Amputation and Prosthetic Care

There’s no denying that amputation or the loss of a limb is a life-changing experience. It not only involves a tremendous physical loss, but also can be emotionally devastating. If you’re facing, or already have had, an amputation, know that you’re not alone – there’s around 1.7 million people living with limb loss in the U.S. alone.

Working with experienced professionals such as those at Ernest Health Systems who can help you through every step of the process – including prosthetic care – is vital.

Post-Operative Care

There are several options for post-operative care after you’ve had an amputation. In many cases, a rigid dressing is placed on the residual limb that protects the surgical site. A removable dressing can be taken off and put back on to allow medical staff to carefully monitor the surgical site.

Another option is a post-operative prosthesis that’s applied in the operating room immediately after surgery. Studies have shown that patients who wear an immediate prosthesis feel more optimistic and tend to recover more quickly than patients who don’t. It’s an option worth discussing with your physician and prosthetist.

Recovery

Putting things in perspective is an important early step in the recovery process. That’s not easy after a life-altering event such as an amputation, but your struggles with grief and acceptance are perfectly normal. It’s important that your friends and family will also struggle along with you, and it’s important to enjoy every success and accomplishment on your road to recovery while not focusing too much on the obstacles.

Physical Therapy

An important piece of your recovery is physical therapy. While it’s often challenging and hard work, physical therapy helps loosen the residual limb and increases muscle tone and coordination. It also helps keep joints flexible while teaching you how to use your prosthesis properly, particularly during daily activities.

Prosthetic care

Quality prosthetic care is essential to your recovery. Your prosthesis is a sophisticated tool designed to enhance your activity level and independence. As time goes on, you will become more dependent on it. Here are some things to keep in mind in terms of caring for your prosthesis.

  • Your prosthesis is a mechanical device that will sometimes require maintenance and repair. Visiting with your clinician at least once a year will help detect potential problems that can be resolved before your prosthesis becomes unusable.
  • Your medical team will give you a schedule that gradually increases the amount of time you wear your prosthesis. Everyone’s situation is different, but most people start with a couple of hours a day before progressing to wearing it all day after a few weeks.
  • It’s important to wear your shrinker or elastic bandage when you’re not wearing your prosthesis.
  • Using an assistive device such as a cane during the first several weeks will help you gradually get used to placing your weight on the prosthesis.
  • Remain physically active even when you’re not wearing your prosthesis. This will help build your stamina.

Personal Hygiene and Prosthetic Care

The residual limb can be subject to perspiration because it’s enclosed in a plastic socket. This can be a source of bacteria and should be monitored closely; you can try sprinkling baby powder on it or apply over-the-counter antiperspirant.

Rehabilitation and Teamwork

Your rehabilitation will be part of a process that involves a team of specially-trained people – including your physician, prosthetist, physical therapist, and other. This team will guide you and help you learn how to use your prosthesis correctly in a safe environment.

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What Your Long-Term Acute Care Team Should Look Like

Patients recovering from serious illnesses or injury often require additional critical care of complex conditions such as trauma, stroke, ventilator weaning, infectious diseases, and more. Dealing with these kinds of medical conditions requires the multi-faceted care of a professional team.

That’s a big part of what long-term acute care is: the involvement of a team that’s specifically trained to care for patients who need to stay in the hospital more than 25 days. What should you or your loved one’s long-term acute care team look like? Let’s take a look.

Certified Professionals

A long-term acute care team is likely to include a full-time medical director, as well as specially trained medical professionals such as physicians, nurses, therapists and specialists. All of them should have earned – and continue to earn and maintain – advanced certifications that provide them with in-depth knowledge needed to deliver exceptional care. These certifications include:

  • Critical Care Registered Nursing certifications
  • Certifications to treat adults who have suffered brain injuries and strokes
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support certifications

The Members of Your Long-term Acute Care Team

Your long-term acute care team may include (depending on your specific needs):

1. Long-term Care Acute Physician

This is the physician who will lead your treatment team and help deliver a personalized plan for you. Your specific medical needs may also require the care of other physicians. The goal is to ensure that your care is complete and maximizes your recovery.

2. Long-term Acute Care Nurse

Your primary nurse will manage all aspects of your treatment and help personalize your care depending on your specific needs. In addition, patient care technicians will assist with hygiene and provide physical care to ensure your comfort.

3. Case Manager

Your case manager will provide you and your family with progress reports while also coordinating your discharge needs and planning. He or she will also answer your insurance coverage and billing questions.

4. Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists serve a variety of important functions, including pulmonary support, specialized treatments, and will help to wean you off of a ventilator if needed.

5. Physical and Occupational Therapists

Your illness or injury may very well have left you with issues such as lack of mobility, balance, stamina, movement, and weakness – which is what your physical therapist will help you with.
The occupational therapist will assist and teach you to perform essential activities such as meal preparation, eating, personal hygiene and dressing.

6. Speech-language Pathologist

Your medical condition may have caused problems with your ability to speak, read, write, swallow, or understand. A speech-language pathologist will help you with these conditions.

7. Dietitian

It’s crucial that your diet include the necessary nutrition to help in your rehabilitation. Your dietitian will ensure that you’re getting the proper therapeutic diet, as well has providing you and your family members with nutrition guidelines to follow for when you return home.

8. Clinical Pharmacist

Your clinical pharmacist will work closely with the physician and nurses to manage your medication needs.

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