The Truth About Stroke Recovery: It Takes A Village
Strokes occur in more than 795,000 people in the US every year and 15 million people worldwide. Since stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability and the fifth-leading cause of death in the US, the probability is high that most of us will be affected by stroke in some way during our lifetime, whether in a personal, professional or caregiving capacity.
The severity of impairments – and therefore, the rehabilitation process – will vary, depending on which part of the brain was affected.
Generally, rehabilitation is focused on treating five types of disabilities which are the most common as a result of stroke:
Aphasia – Damage to the language center of the brain affects approximately 25% of people who’ve experienced a stroke. Aphasia can affect the ability to understand, speak and write.
Emotional – Clinical depression, as well as personality and emotional changes, are common results of stroke-induced brain trauma.
Paralysis, weakness on one side of the body and/or loss of motor control – These impairments can present challenges with:
General reduction of control/sensation over body movements.
Sensory – Post-stroke, sensory disturbances can occur, such as:
Chronic Pain which often stems from a “frozen” joint, and occurs when tendons and ligaments remain in a fixed position due to stroke damage.
Inability to sense touch, temperature or pain.
Sensation disturbances such as tingling, numbness or heaviness.
Incontinence, which is usually temporary.
Memory/attention span and comprehension – Parts of the brain that deal with learning and memory can be affected, too:
Apraxia – The inability to formulate the steps or follow instructions in order to execute an intricate task or to complete a learned movement.
Anosognosia – A lack of recognition of one’s own stroke-induced physical impairments.
Neglect – The inability to respond to stimuli on the stroke-affected side of the body. This occurs most often in people who are impaired on the left side of the body due to stroke damage sustained on the right side of the brain.
Several medical specialists play an important role in a patient’s stroke recovery program:
Physicians are responsible for managing and arranging the patient’s long-term care plan. Additionally, they may prescribe medication as part of the treatment plan or to manage pain. Geriatricians, neurologists and internists are just some of the specialists who may be involved.
Social Workers help coordinate financial decisions and administer a care plan for SNF admission or discharge home.
Rehabilitation Nurses may assist the patient to relearn the basics such as ADLs (activities of daily living), medication schedule management and bed-to-wheelchair transfers.
Occupational Therapists are responsible for restoring sensory and motor skills, as well as relearning functions required to carry out ADLs.
Physical Therapists are tasked with treating motor and sensory impairments (especially coordination and balance), with a focus on restoring physical functioning and range of motion.
Speech-Language Pathologists work on improving language and communication, social skills and swallowing impairments.
Certified Stroke Rehabilitation Specialists are PTs and OTs who are more specialized in the field of neuro rehab, specifically stroke. Because of the additional clinical knowledge built into the certification program, they are able to better understand a patient’s individualized symptoms and can develop a rehabilitation plan which may include cutting edge treatments. If you are interested in becoming a CSRS, go here for more information.
Rehabilitation can take place in multiple settings, even over the course of a single recovery program.
Since each situation is unique, a patient’s care plan is determined by their team of physicians, therapists, social workers and loved ones. The care plan is based on the patient’s progress, input, goals and needs, which will determine where the recovery occurs:
Inpatient – Early intervention is crucial and usually begins immediately after the patient’s condition is stabilized. Therefore, rehabilitation often starts during the patient’s hospital stay. This initial part of the program can be time-intensive, clocking a couple of hours each day for several days a week.
SNF – Skilled nursing facilities place greater focus on rehabilitating the patient with the goal of discharging home. At this level of care, a patient spends less time in therapy and with physicians, as compared with inpatient rehab.
Outpatient – Outpatient therapy tends to take place on a hospital campus featuring a specialized therapy team and physician visits. Patients commonly travel three days a week from their home to complete several hours of therapy.
Home-based – Home-based rehabilitation programs can be the most convenient option for a patient: The hassle of transportation to and from a rehab facility is eliminated; appointment availability/scheduling conflicts disappear; and the patient can complete the exercises on a flexible timeline in the comfort of their own home. Our portable rehabilitation device – the DynaWheel – offers a simple, affordable and safe way to recover at home. It is designed to treat a variety of cognitive and upper-body conditions, including stroke. This multi-functional digital rehab tool contains a game library created to improve: range of motion, grip/grasp strength, muscle strength, visual tracking and perception, hand-eye coordination and ADLs. The DynaWheel has the ability to keep adherence high due to motivators within its games, which makes the exercises engaging and fun!
Regardless of how much damage was sustained, multiple types of therapy are generally needed as part of the recovery plan. Depending on severity of the stroke, the timeline for rehab can vary in length, anywhere from weeks to years.
With a personalized rehabilitation program, a dedicated recovery team/support system and a motivated mindset, survivors of stroke will have a greater chance of a successful recovery.