At facilities like Rehab Select, a team of rehabilitation specialists forms to help you achieve your goal. A post-stroke rehab team offers numerous techniques to help build momentum toward your recovery. We’ll discuss some of the six stroke rehabilitation methods and their benefits here.
Speech and language pathologists help patients recover their ability to communicate and swallow after a stroke. They also help improve skills related to reading and writing. In speech and language therapy, you practice techniques to help you relearn or find alternative methods for communication.
Most strokes affect only one side of the brain. The left side of the brain is normally tasked with controlling speech and understanding language. So, if a stroke affects the left side of the brain, it is possible for it to affect that person's ability to speak or to understand what is being said. This is part of a condition known as aphasia.
Aphasia can cause problems with speaking, listening, reading, writing, understanding speech, and, thinking of words when speaking or writing. The exact symptoms involved with a particular patient depend on the type and severity of the injury to the brain. It affects about 20 percent of stroke patients.
Some of the techniques used to improve swallowing include body positioning, tongue strengthening exercises, and dietary modifications. Your therapist can teach you how to prepare food, engage your swallowing muscles, and sit properly to make swallowing easier.
If you experience problems communicating, such as constructing sentences, comprehending, or remembering words, your therapist uses a variety of approaches to improve your skills. For example, they can teach you breathing and cadence exercises to improve sentence formation and speech coordination. Word meaning and repetition practice help you build new neural pathways between words and their meanings.
Learning how to speak again is just like learning a new language. With practice, word associations become stronger, and your conversation and comprehension skills improve. Those communication skills are vital for relationships, work, and everyday activities.
Swallowing skills help you avoid the choking issues, malnourishment concerns, and embarrassment associated with not being able to swallow.
The speech therapist can also help you use your remaining abilities to the fullest, to restore language abilities where possible, to work around remaining language problems, and to learn other ways to get the message across.
Families are usually a major part of the therapy since they communicate with the patient on a daily basis. They have to learn how to communicate with the patient and to help them on the road to recovery. They should speak to the patient as an adult and include them in ongoing conversations. They should encourage communications of all sorts, whether by word, by gesture, or by drawing.
An individualized physical therapy program helps stroke patients regain their physical function or compensate for physical deficits after a stroke. Strokes often cause temporary or permanent paralysis on one side of the body, and the purpose of physical therapy is to improve mobility and movement where there’s impairment.
Physical therapy for stroke often involves strength and mobility training and range-of-motion exercises. A physical therapist can help you improve the function of impaired limbs with motor relearning techniques and ambulation. They may also incorporate e-stimulation and other therapies into their treatment plans.
Physical therapy helps keep affected muscles and nerves stimulated even before you’re able to use them again. Once you’re able to move about, physical therapy helps you retrain your brain and regain control of your body. Balance and coordination help you avoid falls while mobility exercises and assistive devices allow you to perform your daily activities again.
The brain cannot regenerate any cells lost during the stroke, but physiotherapy can help the brain reorganize existing cells to compensate for the loss (neuroplasticity), according to the Stroke Association. This requires a full physical recovery plan that includes:
- Learning new skills
- Electrical treatment
The amount of time a person and their physiotherapist spend on each part of the recovery plan is determined by the doctor and therapist. They will devise a plan that helps the patient reach new goals and retain normalcy in a safe and controlled environment.
“Stroke patients will have some natural recovery without rehab, but there is quite a bit of evidence that formal rehabilitation helps patients recover faster and better than they would otherwise,” comments Dr. E.S. Claflin of the University of Michigan.
Key benefits of physical therapy after a stroke include:
- Improved overall strength and mobility
- Preventing muscle atrophy
- Better quality of life
- More independence
- Better mood
Occupational therapy focuses on restoring your ability to perform routine daily activities, such as cooking, driving, doing household chores, and grooming. An occupational therapist also helps you overcome physical limitations, adapt your living spaces, and avoid safety concerns.
Perceptual training is one technique often used in occupational therapy to help patients with sensory and perceptual deficits. This type of training helps stroke patients overcome visual impairments, perception problems, or one-sided paralysis.
Repetitive activities are another method used to help stroke survivors relearn how to perform necessary tasks. For example, your therapist may break up tasks into single activities (i.e., cracking, whisking, then folding eggs) and have you repeat each activity. Then, you practice performing the activities in sequence until you master the skill (i.e., cooking scrambled eggs).
The main goal of occupational therapy is to restore your independence and improve your quality of life after a stroke. The stroke therapy equips you with the proper tools to make a safe, effective return home.
Neurological therapies help improve cognitive and motor impairments caused by brain and nerve damage from a stroke. These therapies can improve recovery and reduce symptoms.
Magnetic brain stimulation is a new, promising neurological treatment for stroke patients. The noninvasive stroke therapy stimulates nerve cells to encourage neuroplasticity and brain healing. Brain exercises for stroke recovery may also be included in your treatment plan. They include brain teasers, puzzles, music, and creative projects.
The neuroplasticity of our brains allows them to change, adapt, and learn new patterns at any age. Magnetic brain stimulation appears to help patients walk and move better after a stroke while brain exercises help sharpen your cognitive function.
Mirror therapy is a technique for one-sided paralysis or weakness. Your therapist has you move your unaffected limb and watch it in a mirror. Your brain processes the movement in the mirror as though it’s happening to the affected limb. Eventually, you may notice improvements in your control of the affected side.
During mirror therapy, most people do small hand, arm, and fine motor skill exercises with the mirror. Not only does this improve strength and coordination in the unaffected limb, but it also enhances motor control on the affected side.
During mirror therapy, the brain perceives the affected side moving in the mirror and starts to rewire itself as though it truly is moving. With time, this process may improve strength and mobility on your weak or paralyzed side.
Like occupational therapy, recreational therapy helps you return to the activities you enjoy or learn new ones, specifically recreational activities. Your occupational therapists help you spend your leisure time doing things that improve your mood or provide health benefits.
Recreational therapists use many of the techniques used during physical, speech, and occupational therapy to help you successfully participate in leisure time activities. You use the communication skills from speech therapy to interact with others and the physical abilities gained from physical and occupational therapies to perform activities.
Returning to your hobbies is a gratifying feeling. Your recreational activities give meaning and purpose to your time. They help you enjoy your days. What you do in your leisure time can also help you recover faster and improve your feelings of social connection.
How Inpatient Rehab Facilities Help with Your Post-Stroke Care Plan
An inpatient post-stroke care plan is a basic, personalized rehabilitation plan to help stroke patients regain as much function and independence as possible before they return home. Here are some of the ways inpatient facilities provide support to stroke survivors:
Inpatient facilities like Rehab Select use evidence-based approaches to design personalized treatment for stroke patients to ensure the best possible outcome for you or your loved one. Your team looks at which treatments are going to be the most beneficial to maximize recovery.
Immediate, intensive care provides the best outcome after a stroke. Without quick, multi-disciplinary stroke care, you could potentially experience slower recovery than necessary.
Give You Access to Well-Rounded Care
Inpatient facilities provide around-the-clock, on-site, specialized care. This type of care is convenient for both caretakers and patients and also offers more comprehensive support for the patient. Your team will likely schedule a minimum of three hours of therapy several days per week. This is the level of intensity that is most beneficial for your recovery. Attending back-to-back treatments at the same location also improves your chances of recovery.
All your caretakers communicate and meet regularly too so they're on the same page and can support the other’s therapy. Your care plan may be adjusted over time to keep pace with your progress.
Offer Specialized Treatment for Stroke Patients
Ideally, the inpatient rehab facility you choose should specialize in post-stroke care. The providers at Rehab Select, for example, offer physical, occupational, speech, and any other necessary therapies as well as doctors and nurse practitioners who specialize in stroke recovery. These highly-skilled practitioners all work with stroke patients regularly, so they're the best equipped to meet your needs.
Provide Additional Outside Resources
The staff of an inpatient stroke rehab program are knowledgeable about community programs and other resources you may need outside of the rehab facility. Your providers can make referrals to additional medical specialists who might be beneficial. They can also put you in contact with resources you might not know are available, including in-home help and support groups.
Your care plan continues after you leave the facility, for the rest of your life, and typically includes ongoing care and these supplementary resources. Your inpatient providers will show you what your long-term post-stroke care plan looks like after your stay.
How to Choose The Right Stroke Rehab Facility
If you, or your loved one, has suffered a stroke, you may feel uncertain about which type of facility would be the best fit. The American Stroke Association recommends that in general, patients who have suffered a serious stroke should participate in intensive inpatient rehab for as long as possible.
Skilled Nursing Facilities are appropriate when patients no longer need full-time hospital care but are not yet well enough to return home. Outpatient rehab is suitable only if the patient has enough support at home to ensure their safety while they recover, or if the patient is only experiencing mild side effects after a stroke. At-home therapy has the disadvantage that no professional equipment is available; however, in some cases, it may be beneficial for the patient to receive care in their own home to become confident in their daily routine once more.
Questions to Ask When Choosing a Stroke Rehab Facility
Some people find choosing a stroke rehab facility overwhelming. Here are some questions that you should resolve before selecting a rehab facility for you or your loved one:
Questions for Your Insurance Provider:
- What rehabilitation services are covered by the patient’s medical policy?
- What is the maximum amount of rehab that the patient can receive?
- What rehab facilities are in your insurance network?
- Are there any additional financial resources available?
- Who will cover unexpected additional medical costs?
To Ask the Rehab Facility (Based on Guidelines from the American Stroke Association):
- Do they offer a specialist stroke rehab program?
- How many patients are currently receiving stroke rehab care?
- How will progress be evaluated?
- How do they measure functional recovery?
- What treatments are available?
- Where will rehab take place?
- How do they assure the quality of care for each patient?
- Are they certified to treat stroke patients?
- What percentage of short-term stroke rehab patients are discharged home?
- What support do they offer family members and caregivers?
- What psychological support is offered to stroke patients?
- How do they prevent falls?
- How do they prevent recurrent strokes?
- What specialist training do the nurses, therapists and support staff have?
- Which professionals will be involved in patient care?
- How frequently will the patient see a physician?
- Do they offer 24-hour medical supervision?
- What will the patient schedule look like?
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