New stroke rehab gets patients back in their homes

New stroke rehab gets patients back in their homes

A pilot scheme is getting stroke patients out of hospital and back into their homes faster.

Instead of spending time in a rehabilitation ward, specialist teams in Waitematā are going mobile.

After suffering a stroke in May, John Rennie could barely hold a pen.

"Speech was a little slurred initially… [I] couldn't hold a knife and fork, couldn't feed myself properly with my right hand, couldn't walk properly, I had to have a walker in hospital to get anywhere," he says.

But he was out of hospital in a week as part of a pilot that sees a team of specialists come to him with intensive rehabilitation at home.

Clinical director of Geriatric Medicine at Waitematā DHB, John Scott, says the idea is to give patients a tailored service to meet their own goals and needs.

"Some of the practice things that you do can seem a little artificial and constrained, [like] why am I trying to walk up these five stairs in a gym," says Dr Scott.

"It's more meaningful if you're back in your own home, trying to use your own bathroom, your own kitchen, walk around your own yard."

For Mr Rennie it was walking and getting back to playing bowls, signing his name, and making the family meals.

"Being able to be in a place where you can do normal things when you want to, was huge," he says.

"Like drying dishes and cooking food and chopping vegetables and things like that, which was good therapy anyway."

Around 25 Kiwis a day have a stroke and while this scheme doesn't save money, it does free up hospital beds. 

And it's proving popular with patients.

"The feedback from patients was unanimously positive, that getting out of hospital and back into their own environments benefited both their experience and their health outcomes as they saw it," says Jay O'Brien, Waitematā DHB patient experience manager.

Not everyone will qualify and those who are sick and need hospital care will remain on a ward, but they hope to get 200 Waitematā patients through the scheme in the first year.

If successful, it could be something that's repeated across the country.