Senior Health

2/8/2021 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Being self-sufficient is a beautiful feeling, but that feeling often departs for stroke survivors, leaving them dependent on others for support. It can be challenging to regain independence after a stroke, and to re-learn the skills you lost when this incident affected a specific part of your brain.  

The severity of the stroke and your ability to recover are just two factors that will impact the speed and amount of recovery. Still, stroke rehabilitation’s goal remains the same for everyone: to help regain independence and improve quality of life through a focused stroke rehabilitation program.

What’s involved in stroke rehabilitation?

Stroke rehabilitation usually consists of a multi-pronged approach. Your rehabilitation plan’s specifics will depend on the part of the body and which abilities were mostly affected by the stroke. Here are some of the activities that could be part of your recovery plan.

Physical activities

  • Motor-skill exercises to improve strength, coordination and swallowing.
  • Mobility training showing you how to use mobility aids, such as a cane, walker, wheelchair, or ankle brace.
  • Range-of-motion therapy includes specific exercises to mitigate spasticity and allow you to regain a full range of motion for better independence after a stroke.

Technology-assisted physical activities

  • Robotic devices assist impaired limbs in performing repetitive motions, helping them to regain strength and function.
  • Functional electrical stimulation is often applied to weak muscles, causing them to contract and “re-educate” them.
  • Virtual reality is a computer-based therapy that involves having stroke patients interact with a simulated, real-time environment.

Cognitive and emotional activities

Speech therapy can help regain cognitive abilities such as memory, problem-solving, and social skills and assist with communication disorders in speaking, listening, writing, and comprehension.

Psychological evaluation and treatment might include testing your emotional adjustment and continue with individual counseling or a support group. Because stroke survivors often feel as if they are a burden to their caregivers, resulting in depression, physicians may prescribe an anti-depressant or other medications that improve alertness, decrease agitation, and help them avoid depression.

Experimental therapies

Techniques, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, have shown some success in a research setting by improving a variety of motor skills. Biological therapies involving stem cells show promise in clinical trials, while alternative treatments like herbal therapy, acupuncture, and massage are gaining broader acceptance in the medical community.

When should you start stroke rehabilitation?

While a doctor’s urgent priorities are to get their patient stabilized and prevent another stroke, stroke rehabilitation often starts in the hospital within 24 to 48 hours after the stroke. The sooner rehabilitation begins, the more likely a stroke survivor will regain lost abilities, skills, and independence after a stroke.

Who will help you get back your independence after a stroke?

Stroke rehabilitation involves a team of professionals including:

  • Your primary care doctor will work with neurologists and specialists in physical medicine and rehabilitation to direct your recovery and prevent complications. These physicians can also guide you toward healthy lifestyle choices to help you avoid another stroke.
  • Rehabilitation nurses specialize in caring for people with limitations. They can help you integrate any new skills you learn into your daily routines.
  • Occupational therapists (OT) help you regain daily living skills such as bathing, buttoning a shirt, or tying your shoes.
  • Physical therapists assist you with re-learning how to walk and maintain your balance.
  • Speech and language pathologists help improve language skills and the ability to swallow. They also help stroke patients develop tools to deal with memory, thinking, and communication issues.
  • Psychologists will assess your thinking skills and help you attend to any mental and emotional health matters.
  • Social workers can connect you to financial resources, plan for new living arrangements (if needed), and put you in touch with community resources.
  • Therapeutic recreation specialists assist you to continue activities you enjoyed before your stroke.
  • Vocational counselors help you get back to work if that is what you want.

How long will stroke rehabilitation last?

Strokes vary in severity, and rehabilitation will depend on the seriousness of your stroke and any complications. While some stroke survivors recover quickly, most require long-term stroke rehabilitation, lasting months or years.

The road to independence after a stroke might be short or a bit longer, but you can make continuous progress and reach your ultimate destination with practice.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff