According to the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke, approximately 700,000 people have a stroke each year. Of those, about 2/3 will need some form of rehabilitation. This rehabilitation plays a vital role in the recovery of stroke patients, enabling them to regain their independence and mobility.
The National Stroke Association estimates that about 40% of stroke patients suffer from impairments severe enough to require rehabilitation. A stroke causes damage to the brain, and the nature of a patient’s impairment depends on the location of the damage. Common effects of stroke include the following:
- Paralysis, usually along one side of the body
- Hindered motor control
- Aphasia (the inability to recall words or put them together)
- Sensory problems, including pain
- Memory impairment
Rehabilitation does not reverse the damage caused by a stroke, but it allows patients to regain some function or find new ways to complete familiar tasks. For instance, patients who lose mobility in an arm or hand may learn how to eat and dress with only one hand. Patients may also learn new communication strategies to make up for aphasia or speech loss.
The goal of rehabilitation is always to improve the patient’s sense of independence and to motivate the patient to re-master basic life skills that may have been lost due to stroke. A comprehensive rehabilitation program addresses not only the patient’s physical challenges, but also emotional and mental needs.
How Stroke Rehabilitation Works
Since stroke affects each patient differently, not every stroke patient will have the same rehabilitation routine. Some patients may recover relatively quickly, while for others stroke may be a lifelong process. Generally a patient’s stroke rehabilitation involves a multi-disciplinary team that may include physical therapists, speech pathologists, vocational therapists, and other specialists, along with physicians and nurses.
For patients in stable condition, rehabilitation may begin as soon as 24 hours after the stroke. Patients are encouraged to change positions in their beds, or transfer from bed to chair. Eventually the patient will leave the bed and work on bearing his or her wait, then walking either with or without assistance.
As these skills are mastered, the therapist may incorporate active (unsupported) and passive (supported) range of motion activities. Meanwhile, specialists work to restore daily skills like eating, dressing, bathing, and speaking. The doctor may also recommend that the patient participate in a stroke support group.
Patients often find that rehabilitation can be both extremely challenging and rewarding. To help patients stay involved in their rehabilitation, the National Stroke Association provides a Stroke Recovery Scorecard.
In recognition of National Stroke Awareness Month, Central Florida Regional Hospital is hosting Stroke Awareness Day tomorrow, Tuesday, May 18. From 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, members of the community are invited to get blood pressure screening; a light and healthy lunch to go copy of the “Power to End Stroke” cookbook; and a pedometer. Special guest Zach the Producer from Magic 107.7 will host from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. To learn more about CFRH’s Stroke Awareness Day, call 1-800-445-3392.