Beginning The Recovery Process Through Stroke Rehabilitation The goal of most stroke rehabilitation programs is to restore as much independence to the stroke victim as possible by improving their mental, physical and emotional functions. This must be done in a way that preserves the stroke survivor’s dignity and motivates them to re-learn basic life skills that may have been negatively affected by the stroke, such as dressing, walking and eating.
Stroke rehabilitation should begin in the hospital, as quickly as possible after the stroke. If the survivor is medically stable, rehabilitation may begin just one day after the stroke and should be continued even after release from the hospital, when needed. For other survivors, stroke rehabilitation can take place months or years after the stroke as the survivor’s conditions improve or in some cases, worsen.
Stroke rehabilitation options will depend on several factors including degree of disability, ability to tolerate intense rehabilitation, insurance coverage, available funding as well as your geographical area. The main options for survivors include acute care (inpatient) and rehab hospitals, sub-acute facilities, long-term facilities, outpatient facilities and home health agencies.
Health Care Team
During the multiple phases of stroke rehabilitation, the survivor will most likely work with a team of health care professionals from different specialties. It is important for a survivor to get to know their health care team and feel comfortable addressing any rehabilitation issue with them
Services delivered during stroke rehabilitation include physical, occupational, speech and language therapies, specialty medical or psychological services and therapeutic recreation.
Physical therapy helps stroke survivors restore physical functions and skills like range of motion and walking as well as addresses issues such as one-sided or partial paralysis, foot drop or faulty balance.
Physical therapists are trained to treat individuals with disabilities related to sensory and motor impairments. These therapists are trained in aspects of physiology and anatomy related to normal function, specifically focusing on movement. They assess the stroke patient’s endurance, strength, gait abnormalities, sensory deficits and range of motion to design individualized stroke rehab programs aimed at regaining control over sensory and motor functions.
Physical therapists help stroke survivors regain the use of impaired limbs, establish ongoing exercise programs to help patients retain their newly developed skills and teach compensatory strategies that help reduce the effect of remaining deficits.
Occupational Therapy involves the stroke survivor re-learning the skills needed for everyday life including dressing, eating, taking care of yourself and going to the bathroom.
Similar to physical therapists, occupational therapists are commonly concerned with improving sensory and motor abilities. They help stroke patients relearn skills needed for performing activities/occupations such as grooming, housecleaning and preparing meals. As the name suggests, occupational therapists can also be involved in helping retrain higher-level function necessary for survivors to resume employment.
Stroke survivors may have problems thinking, communicating or swallowing. Speech therapy involves techniques to reduce and compensate for any or all of these problems.
Speech-language pathologists help stroke patients with aphasia relearn to use language or develop an alternate means of communication. They also help stroke survivors improve their ability to swallow, and they work with survivors to develop social and problem solving skills needed for the patient to cope with the after affects of their stroke.
Therapeutic recreation or recreational therapy reintroduces leisure and social activities to a stroke survivor’s life. Activities may include swimming, going to plays, museums and libraries, or taking art and music lessons. An important factor of recreational therapy is reintegrating with the community and developing social skills.