Stroke recovery and rehabilitation

As a result of stroke, a person may experience a range of new difficulties with skills like walking, range of motion and everyday living activities including eating, going to the bathroom, dressing and taking care of themselves. In addition, a stroke survivor may also experience problems communicating, thinking or swallowing.

Rehabilitation following stroke should be initiated as soon as possible by a specialized and interdisciplinary medical team including physicians, nurses, therapists, neuropsychologists and case managers experienced in assessing and treating stroke. The goal of stroke rehabilitation is to restore as much independence as possible by improving physical, mental and emotional functions while preserving the survivor’s dignity and motivating them to re-learn basic skills that may have been affected.

Stroke recovery may require extensive rehabilitation, including many services in many different settings. Stroke rehabilitation options will depend on many factors, including an individual’s stamina to tolerate the appropriate level of rehab intensity, the degree of the disability resulting from stroke, available funding or insurance coverage, and the resources available according to geographic area.

Acute care and inpatient rehabilitation hospitals provide 24-hour medical care and a full range of rehab services in a hospital setting. Sub-acute facilities provide daily nursing care and a fairly wide range of rehab services, sometimes in association with a hospital or in a separate facility.

Long-term care facilities, also known as skilled nursing facilities, provide rehab services several times per week to long-term and short-term residents.

Outpatient facilities provide a wide range of rehab services for people who live at home and can come to the center for treatment several times a week. Home health agencies provide rehab services to stroke survivors in their own homes.

At each level of care along the continuum of rehabilitation from stroke, an individualized treatment program is designed to meet the specific needs of the patient and is developed with the patient at the center of the team. Setting short- and long-term goals is an important aspect of stroke rehabilitation. These goals should be personally motivating, able to be reasonably accomplished, realistic and flexible. What you are able to do may change many times and can take place shortly after stroke or years later. Under Medicare and many private health plans, a patient is entitled to “re-enter” the rehabilitation continuum at any time if they experience a change in their abilities, through re-applying for added rehab benefits based on the change.

Ultimately, rehabilitation is a lifetime commitment and an important part of recovery from stroke. The support of the interdisciplinary medical team, family members, loved ones and resources within the community are critical to the success of the rehabilitation process.

Post author Lindsey J. Moore is a speech language pathologist at Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital.

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