Recovering from a stroke takes time. It can be a lengthy process that requires a lot of patience, commitment, and hard work lasting weeks, months, or even years. Unfortunately, some patients never fully recover from a stroke, and so it is important to focus on small gains and continue to work towards improvement. A stroke affects every patient differently, and so you should celebrate every milestone and avoid comparing one patient’s recovery to another’s.
Rehabilitation after a stroke focuses on returning to as normal and independent a life as possible. This means actively working and focusing on relearning skills or learning new ones to compensate. It may also require adapting to limitations and new conditions. Seek help immediately if the patient experiences dizziness, falls, or has trouble walking or getting around in daily life. Also consult your doctor if they are unable to walk without resting, can no longer do the things that they enjoy, or require help for daily activities. There are many types and approaches to stroke rehabilitation, and the specific plan will depend on which part of the body and/or ability was affected by the stroke.
Physical therapy activities may include:
- Motor skill exercises to improve coordination and muscle strength. This often includes therapy to strengthen swallowing.
- Mobility training using aids such as a walkers, canes, wheelchairs, or ankle braces to stabilize and strengthen so that the patient can support their body’s weight as they relearn how to walk.
- Forced-use or constraint-induced therapy to keep an unaffected limb restrained as they practice moving only the affected limb in order to improve its function.
- Range-of-motion therapy using specific exercises and treatments to reduce spasticity and muscle tension in order to help regain range of motion.
Technology-assisted physical therapy activities may include:
- Functional electrical stimulation in which electricity is applied to the weakened muscles, causing them to contract in order to reeducate them.
- Robotic technology to assist impaired limbs in performing repetitive motions, thereby helping them to regain strength and function.
- Wireless technology using an activity monitor to increase post-stroke activity.
- Virtual reality programs to provide interaction using a simulated, real-time environment.
Cognitive & Emotional Recovery
Many patients understandable feel angry, depressed, or anxious when recovering from a stroke. They may worry about their work, money, and/or their personal relationships, and the exhaustion and frustration caused by the stroke may make this even worse. 30/50 percent of stroke survivors develop depression after suffering from a stroke, and they may not be affected until later in the recovery process. If the patient has difficulty controlling their emotions, seems continually down, or behaves unusually, consult a physician to develop a plan to treat depression as soon as possible to keep it from interfering with recovery.
Cognitive and/or emotional therapy may include:
- Cognitive therapy to help with lost abilities that may include memory, processing, judgment, problem-solving, and social skills.
- Occupational therapy to help the patient regain the ability to perform everyday activities.
- Communication therapies including speech therapy to help regain lost skills for speaking, listening, writing, and/or comprehension.
- Ongoing psychological evaluation and treatment including counseling or participation in a support group.
- Antidepressants or medications to treat issues with alertness, agitation, or movement.
The sooner stroke rehabilitation is started, the more likely it is that the patient will be able to regain their skills and abilities. With the proper treatment and time for rehabilitation, most patients can have a high quality of life while recovering from a stroke. They may need to learn or relearn skills and get the proper social, emotional, and physical support, but the resources are out there. Seek out community resources, including stroke survivor and caregiver support groups. Find a case manager, social worker, or discharge planner to help you find the necessary resources in your community. And if you or someone you love has suffered from a stroke, don’t hesitate to reach out to your friends and family, or consider in-home care services.
The caring, well-trained team at Specialty Care Services can help by providing expert home care in Washington, DC and the surrounding areas. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule a free in-home consultation.