The process of stroke recovery is a protracted one, which involves a reclaiming of independence through the rehabilitation and restoration of physical, mental, and emotional functions to the extent that this is possible. For the patient undergoing rehabilitation and for his or her family it is vital that this process be understood. It is likewise important for everyone to know that regardless of how hopeless things may seem at times; this process can be undertaken with success.
Starting the Rehabilitation and Recovery Process
Rehabilitation is an essential part of the recovery process. This starts as soon as the patient is medically stable which is probably while the patient is still confined. The rehabilitation process at this point would involve the participation of a physician, a nurse, a psychologist, a speech and language therapist, an occupational therapist,a physical therapist and a pathologist. Together, they would comprise a team whose main objective would be to prevent post-stroke complications and start the patient on activities that will prepare the patient to cope with activities in daily living independently.
Factors that Determine Stroke Recovery
When the rehabilitation process commences, the team will assess the patient in terms of certain factors; these not help predict the extent to which recovery is possible but also determine the correct rehabilitation program for the patient. These various factors help in patient assessment.
• The extent of the damage to the brain is a key predictor of recovery in patients who have suffered from a stroke.
• The patient’s motivation and will to recover play an important role in the patients reclaiming of certain functions.
• The presence of a constant support system is critical in sustaining efforts to rehabilitate a patient since much of the process takes place outside of the hospital.
• The amount of time that lapses between the stroke and the rehabilitation is a factor to be considered in predicting the total effort needed for rehabilitation.
• Faithful adherence to a therapy regimen both inside and outside of the hospital will also determine recovery success.
• The skill and coordination of the team involved in rehabilitation
Types of Activities in Rehabilitation Therapy
In general, the activities in stroke rehabilitation therapy will include the following:
• Counseling and psychological evaluation to test cognitive skills and emotional state
• Range of motion exercises together with other treatments needed to lessen muscle tension or spasticity
• Speech therapy to restore any abilities in speaking, listening, reading comprehension and writing that may have been impaired
• Physical therapy to improve coordination and muscle strength
• Mobility training which may or may not involve learning to use a cane or a walker, orthosis (braces to assist ankles in supporting body weight)
Currently, other therapies are also used to assist in stroke recovery. Among these therapies are:
• Mental movement therapy which involves the use of mentally practicing movements
• Electrical Stimulation which uses electricity to stimulate weakened muscles, cause contraction and assist in re-educating muscles
• Constraint-induced therapy which involves restricting the healthy limb to force the patient to use the affected limb
• Robotic technology which makes use of robotic devices to help affected limbs do repetitions of prescribed motions to build strength and relearn function
Rehabilitation, Programs, and Facilities
While rehabilitation usually begins even before a patient leaves the hospital, other programs or combinations of programs are often used once a patient has been released from hospital care. Options for therapy may include:
• Inpatient rehabilitation units (either independent or attached to the hospital or clinic) are made available to patients who go through intensive rehabilitation for several weeks.
• Outpatient rehabilitation units are usually attached to the hospital or clinic where patients may stay for hours daily to relearn skills.
• Some nursing homes are able to carry out rehabilitation programs.
• Home-based therapy means therapy is done at home. This has both its advantages and disadvantages. The patient has more flexibility but at the same time, the specialized equipment will usually not be available at home.
Over and above all the therapy programs and equipment, possibly the most critical ingredient is the determination of the patient and his support group to achieve rehabilitation. The process of recovery is one that is often fraught with frustration and depression so this is where the patient and his or her support group must muster the energy and the willpower to overcome obstacles and help the patient live an independent life.