So often, the very word “stroke” is uttered with a grim shake of the head, an acknowledgment that life as a stroke “victim” comes with profound challenges. That’s understandable. Stroke is not only unpredictable but symptoms can also occur without prior warning. In turn, this complicates stroke rehabilitation for seniors.
According to the American Heart Association, approximately 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke every year, making it the leading cause of long-term disability in adults. Often, stroke is characterized as “catastrophic” in nature.
And yet, statistics from the National Stroke Association indicate that while about 15% of stroke victims die shortly after a stroke, 10% recover almost completely and another 25% recover with only modest impairments.
The remaining group, about four in 10, survives the stroke with moderate to severe impairments. However, there’s hope even for this group. With expert rehabilitation assistance, stroke survivors and their families can transcend the toughest challenges. The key, according to the National Stroke Association, is “patience, ingenuity, perseverance, and creativity.”
Stroke Rehabilitation Should Begin Early
Similarly, the key to rehabilitation for stroke survivors with moderate or severe impairments is consistency and timeliness. Early rehabilitation efforts hold out the greatest promise for improved functioning.
The hope that early rehabilitation offers has its basis in the central nervous system. Despite continual progress in brain science, we still don’t fully understand how the brain compensates for stroke damage.
However, we do know that brain cells often recover and, over time, begin functioning again. In other words, the plasticity of the brain makes the remodeling of neural circuits possible. Essentially, cortical stimulation can return some level of normalcy to damaged neurons. This can account for astonishing recoveries that still can’t be fully explained by science.
That said, physical therapy for stroke rehabilitation should be customized to your individual needs. The goal is to help you return (as much as possible) to your prior level of functioning. It may also be a good idea to make lifestyle changes to improve your overall health and wellbeing.
Ideally, rehabilitation should begin in the hospital and, if you’re stable enough, as soon as two days after your stroke. Except for patients who are left with almost no impairment, rehabilitation should commence before your hospital discharge — and continue at home.
The goal of physical therapy is to help you regain your independence. This means relearning basic skills such as bathing, eating, dressing, and walking. This is another reason that stroke recovery at home is important.
The Stroke Rehabilitation Team
Your rehabilitation will likely be handled by a team of professionals, with treatment approaches similar to that from respectable organizations like the Mayo Clinic:
- A physiatrist who specializes in rehabilitation and can test your emotional adjustment and advise counseling or participation in a support group.
- A neurologist who specializes in stroke and other diseases of the brain may use non-invasive methodologies such as transcranial magnetic stimulation to improve your motor skills. This methodology is experimental but comes with no risks.
- A rehabilitation nurse who helps survivors monitor and manage their recovery at home.
- A physical therapist helps with movement and balance. Motor-skill exercises can help improve muscle strength and coordination.
- An occupational therapist can help survivors maintain their skills in performing daily activities. This type of help, along with speech therapy, can aid in recovering lost cognitive abilities such as memory, processing, problem-solving, judgment, and safety awareness.
Other professionals involved may include a speech-language pathologist, dietitian, social worker, and recreation therapist.
Stroke Rehabilitation and Daily Living
Recovery at home comes with many challenges. You may worry that you’ll experience another stroke and that friends and family will abandon you. You may also be concerned about how a stroke will affect your ability to perform activities of daily living (ADL).
Most importantly, you worry about whether you’ll regain a measure of self-sufficiency and independence. However, there’s hope. You can regain a high level of proficiency in performing daily tasks through skillful, persistent physical therapy.
Finally, changing your lifestyle in meaningful ways can help you recover and prevent another stroke. This includes smoking cessation, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and engaging in regular physical activity.
It’s also important to work on your relationships with other people. Inevitably, a stroke can exacerbate physical and emotional limitations, changing the way you relate to family and friends. Thus, adjusting to all aspects of your “new reality” should be part of your rehabilitation at home.
David York Agency Understands Stroke Rehabilitation in Staten Island
If the above information about stroke rehabilitation has been useful, check out David York Agency’s blog for more articles about senior care in Staten Island.
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