Rehabilitation After a Stroke
The severity of stroke complications and each person’s ability to recover his abilities varies widely. It has been found that the central nervous system is adaptive and can recover some functions, along with the fact that it’s necessary to keep practicing regained skills.
What is post-stroke rehabilitation?
Rehabilitation helps stroke survivors relearn skills that are lost when part of the brain is damaged. For example, these skills can include coordinating leg movements in order to walk or carrying out the steps involved in any complex activity. Individuals may need to learn how to bathe and dress using only one hand or how to communicate effectively when their ability to use language has been compromised. There is a strong consensus among rehabilitation experts that the most important element in any rehabilitation program is carefully directed, well-focused, repetitive practice— the same kind of practice used by all people when they learn a new skill, such as playing the piano or pitching a baseball.
Rehabilitation actually starts in the hospital as soon as possible following a stroke. In patients who are stable, rehabilitation may begin within two days after the stroke has occurred, and should be continued as necessary after release from the hospital.
Depending on the severity of the stroke, rehabilitation options can include:
- A rehabilitation unit in the hospital with inpatient therapy
- A sub-acute care unit
- A rehabilitation hospital with individualized inpatient therapy
- Home therapy
- Returning home with outpatient therapy
- A long-term care facility that provides therapy and skilled nursing care
The long-term goal of rehabilitation is to improve function so that the stroke survivor can become as independent as possible. This must be accomplished in a way that preserves dignity and motivates the survivor to relearn basic skills that the stroke may have impaired – skills like bathing, eating, dressing and walking.
How long does rehab take?
For most people, rehab is a lifelong process. The road to recovery can be long and frustrating, so keeping a positive outlook is key. Try everything you can to get better, and get relief from pain if you need to. Your stroke rehab team is there to help in as many ways as it can. A strong support network of family and friends is also very important.
You may recover the most in the first few weeks or months after your stroke. But you can keep getting better for years. It just may happen more slowly. And it may take a long time and a lot of hard work. Just make sure you never give up.
What is suitable for one person may not be appropriate for another. Consult with the rehabilitation team, including the physiotherapist, to determine what’s most suitable.