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Health and Fitness News
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Life After Stroke

What does stroke rehabilitation look like?

A stroke cuts off blood flow to your brain and is always a medical emergency. Without blood, your brain lacks oxygen and its cells begin to die. The longer the brain goes without blood flow, the greater the chances of permanent brain damage or death.

Unfortunately, stroke doesn’t end after the event itself. For many, the effects of stroke are felt for a lifetime afterward. Paralysis and impaired speech, vision, memory, or behavior are common consequences of stroke. But with appropriate rehabilitation services, you can overcome many stroke-induced complications.

Wondering what stroke rehabilitation looks like? You’re about to find out.

Why Rehab?

With a stroke, life changes in an instant. You go from being an independent, healthy adult to someone who can no longer feed, bath, or dress yourself. You may no longer be able to get around without assistance or clearly communicate with others.

The goal of stroke rehabilitation is to improve your quality of life. Therapists work with you for days, weeks, or longer to regain some or all of your lost abilities.

What Happens During Rehab?

Stroke rehabilitation is tailored to your needs. Depending on your symptoms, you may need physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy. Physical therapy may focus on mobility training to learn how to walk or use a walker or wheelchair. You may undergo exercises to improve coordination, build strength, or increase your range of motion.

When memory or emotions are affected, occupational and speech therapy may help. These help with social skills, speaking ability, memory, and problem-solving. Occupational therapy also helps you learn new ways to do once-familiar tasks, such as tying your shoes or bathing.

Where Is Stroke Rehab Done?

As soon as your medical condition is stabilized and you’re out of immediate danger for a subsequent stroke, you should begin rehabilitation. The sooner rehab starts, the greater your chances of regaining lost abilities. Therefore, most people begin rehab within a day or two of their stroke, while they’re still in the hospital.

Before starting rehab, your medical care team and hospital social worker will help make a plan of rehabilitation. Where you receive your rehabilitation depends on your access and mobility. If you have transportation and are cleared to live at home, you may be referred to an outpatient facility that’s part of a hospital or health clinic. If you need ongoing care after your stroke, you may be sent to an inpatient, long-term rehab unit or a skilled nursing facility that specializes in rehab or therapy. In some cases, therapists may come to your home to perform therapy there.

How Long Does Rehab Take?

The length of your rehab depends on how severe your stroke was and what complications it caused. Some stroke survivors recover in days or weeks, while others require long-term rehab that lasts months or even years. The support of family and friends, the skill of your rehab team, as well as your own motivation, commitment, and hard work all play important roles in the success of rehab.

Who Is Involved?

The specialists who are a part of your rehab process depend on your rehab needs. Stroke patients dealing with physical limitations may see physicians, neurologists, rehabilitation nurses, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. Those dealing with cognitive, vocational, or emotional limitations following a stroke may see social workers, vocational counselors, psychologists, speech language pathologists, or therapeutic recreation specialists.

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