Mexican-Americans may be getting inferior rehab services compared to whites, a recent study suggests. It may explain why that ethnic group is harder hit by stroke’s long-term effects, researchers said.
Life after a stroke can be marred by significant impairments, with survivors having to relearn how to speak, walk or carry out day-to-day activities such as cooking and getting dressed. That’s why stroke rehabilitation is recommended to aid the recovery of hundreds of thousands of Americans who survive a stroke each year.
Among those receiving rehab, 73 percent of white patients got inpatient rehab — a more intensive recovery program — whereas only 30 percent of Mexican-Americans did. Mexican-American patients were much more likely to receive their rehabilitation care at home or outpatient location, the results show.
A big difference between home-based and inpatient care is the time allotted for services, said the study’s lead author Lewis B. Morgenstern, M.D., a professor of neurology and director of the stroke program at the University of Michigan Medical School and School of Public Health.
Home rehab is one hour of services a day compared with at least three hours at an inpatient center, Morgenstern said. Plus, he added, people who get services at inpatient facilities have access to a variety of exercise machines.
But the study doesn’t prove Mexican-American stroke survivors would recover more cognitive and motor skills if they received aggressive rehab, Morgenstern said. Because this was a small preliminary study, “you have to take these results with kind of a grain of salt — or a boulder of salt,” he said.
Finding ways to reduce the burden of stroke and other diseases among Hispanics and Latinos — the largest ethnic minority group in the United States — will be critical. Among Hispanic and Latino Americans, who can be of any race, stroke is the No. 4 cause of death, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By comparison, stroke is the third-leading cause of death among blacks, Asians and Pacific Islanders. It is the No. 5 cause of death among white Americans and costs the nation about $34 billion a year.