When a stroke attack occurs, the best way to bounce back is to immediately undergo stroke rehabilitation or stroke rehab. During the course of a stroke rehab, a team of healthcare professionals work with the stroke patient to reclaim skills that were lost during the stroke attack. Rehab helps the stroke victim to be as independent as possible with daily life. It also helps the stroke patient to learn to live with the changes that happened to the stroke patient’s mind and body because of the stroke attack. And, rehab also helps the stroke victim to adjust to living at his own home, living with his family and even adjusting to life in the community.
Rehab should start as early as the stroke was diagnosed. It starts while the stroke victim is still in the hospital. Once the stroke patient leaves the hospital, home therapy or home rehab should immediately start. Almost all rehab programs lasts for at least 3 hours per day and eats up 5 to 6 days in a week. The likelihood of recovering skills and abilities is very high during the first few months after the onset of the stroke. Hence, it is vital that a stroke victim must undergo home rehab as early as possible.
The goal of post-hospital confinement stroke rehab, including home rehab, is to prevent future strokes to happen. In order for a stroke victim to stay in good health, he or she may need to take medicines and to make necessary changes in his or her lifestyle. The changes that a stroke victim may need to undergo must be in synch with his or her rehab team. These changes include changes in the stroke victim’s diet, the type of exercise which the stroke victim must perform and other lifestyle changes which are best for the stroke victim.
The rehab team
Once out of the hospital, the home rehab team takes over. The home rehab team, which is the most important part of the rehabilitation process, includes the stroke victim, his or her loved ones and his or her caregivers. They are the most important part of the rehab process because they are the people who are monitoring the progress of the stroke victim most of the time. The home rehab team will work hand in hand with a group of healthcare professionals to help the stroke victim recover from the effects of the stroke attack. The healthcare professionals that will join forces with the home rehab team include doctors and nurses (who specialize in stroke rehab) and one or several rehabilitation therapists. These rehabilitation therapists can be:
- A physical therapist to help the stroke victim overcome problems with movement, balance and coordination;
- An occupational therapist who can help the stroke patient with activities of daily living such as eating, dressing up, writing and other tasks;
- A speech-language therapist to regain and relearn language skills and also to aid help overcome problems with swallowing;
- A recreational therapist to help the stroke victim return to activities that the latter enjoyed prior to the stroke attack;
- A psychologist or counselor to help in dealing with emotions;
- Other healthcare professionals, for example a dietitian help in planning a healthy diet and a vocational counselor who can help the stroke victim to get back to his or her job or to help in looking for a best suited job for the stroke patient; and
- A social worker or case manager who facilitates in arranging for other needed help or equipment that a stroke victim may need at home.
Once a stroke victim gets discharged from the hospital, home rehab is an integral part of his or her rehabilitation.
The stroke patient may need assistive devices to help him or her with his activities of daily living (ADLs). Activities of daily living that may require modification include:
- Eating – if a stroke victim is left with a weak hand, using a large-handled silverware may help. This can be much easier to grab than a regular spoon or fork. If a stroke patient is experiencing problems with swallowing, a change in diet may be needed or his or her physician may require the stroke victim to use a feeding tube at home. After a stroke, a stroke patient can not feel food on one or both sides of his or her mouth. Since, a stroke can paralyze the muscles of one or both sides of the body the natural gag reflex of a stroke victim is also impaired. The incidence of choking is very high. To solve this problem, a speech therapist should be recruited in the plan of care.
- Getting dressed – putting on socks or stockings can be very tiresome if the stroke victim has weakness in one arm or hand. A stroke victim may find it easier to use a stocking or sock spreader, a ring or string attached to zipper pulls and buttonhooks when getting dressed. The stroke patient may ask his or her occupational therapist about assistive devices to help in getting dressed.
- Walking – using a cane or a walker can be used to in preventing falls
- Going to the bathroom – after a stroke, people may experience loss of bowel and bladder control. Because the anal sphincter and the urinary bladder are made up of muscles, paralysis on one side of the body caused by the stroke may cause fecal or urinary incontinence. Most of the time it is temporary and the root cause maybe of several factors which include infection, constipation and medicines taken up by the stroke victim.
The road to recovery
- Getting involved in your care – there is a motto in the healthcare profession where it says that “Patients as partners.” It means that patients are not only customers but are also partners in the realm of healthcare. The more a stroke victim gets involved with his or her own care, the better. A caregiver may take charge in some instances but the stroke victim must participate fully in his or her own care since it’s his or her own health that they are dealing with. The stroke victim may ask for help in dealing with the disabilities associated with a stroke attack. Also, the stroke patient must try to make the people around him or her to understand the limitations brought about by the stroke incident.
- Recognizing depression and dealing with it – depression is very common to people who had experienced a stroke. The problem with depression is how to recognize it, accepting that one is experiencing depression and having it treated. Stroke victims may need to take medicines for depression to deal with this mental health disease.
- Participating in rehab as soon as possible – Immediately after a stroke attack, the combined efforts of the rehab team will help the stroke victim manage his or her ADLs. These include taking a bath, dressing up and eating. Also, the rehab team will teach the stroke patient to overcome the disabilities associated with a stroke attack. Also, they will help the stroke patient to learn new ways of doing tasks and strengthen body parts affected by the stroke.
Timeline of Rehab
Almost all stroke victims undergo a lifelong process of rehab. The road to recovery can be long and very frustrating. And to counter this, a positive outlook is the key. The stroke victim must do his or her vey best to get better. If needed, the stroke victim must also seek relief from pain. Aside from the healthcare team who helps in managing the stroke victim’s recovery, the support of the home rehab team is also of great importance. The support network of family and friends can determine the outcome of the stroke patient’s home rehab. A weak support network can make the stroke victim feel powerless against his predicament while a strong support network can help the stroke victim overcome his disability.
Recovery can be seen in the first few weeks or months after the onset of the stroke. But with continuous rehab at home, the stroke victim may get better through the years. Rehab is a long and arduous task. But with the support of a strong home rehab team, the task would feel effortless.
Tips for the home rehab team (the family members and caregivers)
Once the stroke victim is out of the hospital and already at home, he or she may have a hard time adjusting back to family life. A stroke patient may tend to be slow, cautious with every movement and disorganized when doing unknown tasks. The stroke patient apparently becomes anxious and hesitant, new traits that are poles apart from the way they were before the stroke incident.
Stroke victims may require help at home with their ADLs depending on the amount of disability they acquired during the stroke attack.
- The immediate family must adjust to the stoke victim’s capabilities. A strong familial support certainly enhances recovery time.
- Managing speech and language problems to allay the stroke victim’s fears as well as decrease anxiety. Acquiring a speech defect after a bout of stroke is very frustrating to a stroke patient. Communicating what he is thinking and feeling at the moment can be totally frustrating to a stroke patient once he learns that he cannot get his message through his loved ones. Family members can lessen anxiety and frustration by speaking slowly and directly to the point. Letting the stroke victim convey his message without interrupting him can be very rewarding. Also, listening carefully to what the stroke victim says is of great importance.
- Participation of the immediate family in the stroke victim’s rehab is also of great importance. Words of encouragement, a pat on the back and showering the stroke victim with love will greatly enhance his or her morale thus making the stroke victim more cooperative to his or her rehabilitation.