Stroke rehabilitation helps people relearn the skills they may have lost during a stroke, including speech, movement, and ability to complete daily tasks.
Multiple types of therapy are often used following a stroke, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Some people will need all three, while others may only need one or two types.
The combination of exercises, therapies, and activities allow trained professionals to work with stroke victims daily to improve their skills and overall quality of life.
In this article, we will focus on seniors who require physical therapy following a stroke. If your loved one requires physical therapy for stroke, there’s no time to waste. The sooner they begin therapy, the better the outcome.
Let’s take a look at what happens in the brain during a stroke, and how post-stroke physical therapy may significantly improve symptoms.
What happens during a stroke?
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked or reduced.
When blood supply is interrupted, the brain becomes starved of oxygen and nutrients. Immediate treatment is essential because the brain cells will begin to die within minutes.
The two main causes of a stroke are as follows:
- Ischemic stroke, or blocked artery
- Hemorrhagic stroke, or leaking or bursting blood vessel
A transient ischemic attack, or ministroke, occurs when there is a temporary disruption of blood flow that doesn’t cause permanent damage.
An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. It occurs when the brain’s blood vessels are blocked by fatty deposits, blood clots, or other debris.
Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when blood vessels rupture or leak due to a variety of factors, including high blood pressure, trauma, or aneurysms.
Watch our event addressing stroke warning signs, latest research, prevention measures, innovations in treatment, the process of recovery, holistic approaches to healing, and life after a stroke.
How is a stroke diagnosed
To quickly recognize a stroke, experts recommend using the FAST method, which stands for Face, Arms, Speech, and Time.
- Face: Ask the person to smile, and notice if one side of their face droops
- Arms: Ask them to raise both arms, and notice if one arm drifts down
- Speech: Ask your loved one to repeat a phrase, and notice if their speech is slurred
- Time: If you notice any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately
Once your loved one is at the hospital, the emergency staff will rush to determine what type of stroke they are having, and rule out other causes of their symptoms.
They will perform a physical exam, blood tests, CT scans, MRI, and other tests to make these determinations, then begin administering IV medication to break up the blood clot.
If it’s a hemorrhagic stroke, they will perform surgery to stop the bleeding.
Depending on the location of the stroke, and how long the area lacked adequate blood flow, your loved one may have complications from the stroke that require therapy.
What is post-stroke physical therapy?
After the emergency treatment, doctors will closely monitor your loved one to determine the extent of their complications and their recommended treatments.
Complications can include:
- Paralysis on one side of the face or body
- Trouble talking, swallowing, and eating
- Memory loss
- Behavior or emotional problems
To regain these skills and improve quality of life, a combination of therapies is immediately implemented.
Physical therapy for stroke can help a person relearn how to walk and how to transition from sitting to standing, as well as addressing general weakness, abnormal gait, and other issues concerning strength and coordination.
Occupational therapy may be used for those who need help with writing, dressing, tying their shoes, putting on socks, or other types of memory and processing skills.
Speech therapy can help those who are having trouble speaking by finding new ways to communicate, as well as assisting with eating and chewing food.
Therapy often begins within 24-48 hours of a stroke, and involves a lot of repetitive actions to aid in recovery.
How can a physical therapist help?
Physical therapists develop treatment plans to specifically address a person’s main challenges and goals.
Their own goal is for your loved one to have the best possible quality of life following their stroke.
A physical therapist will teach stroke victims first how to safely perform their exercises and then will increasingly adjust exercises to meet their new levels of strength and function as they advance.
If your loved one lives in an assisted living community with on-site physical therapy, such as The Kensington Sierra Madre, they will have access to a team of physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists that work together to boost skills.
Post-stroke treatments might include:
- Strength and mobility training
- Training to help aid in mobility, such as wheelchairs, walkers, braces, etc.
- Task-oriented training
- Walking and balance
- Chewing and swallowing
- Speech therapy
- Aquatic therapy
- Mirror therapy
- Virtual reality or robotics
Stroke recovery is a multistep process involving many types of professionals.
Following a stroke, victims are not only struggling to navigate the sudden physical and mental limitations, but may experience a wide range of emotions and grief of what they have lost.
Immediate medical attention following a stroke is crucial to helping victims take a proactive approach to recovery, and maintaining the highest quality of life.
Stroke rehabilitation: What to expect as you recover
In the days, weeks, and months following the stroke, therapists work to help people maintain muscle tone and function even if voluntary movement has not yet returned.
The repetition of the treatments, and constant re-evaluation, allows these experts to stay on top of recovery and help stroke survivors retrain healthy brain cells for maximum success.
The Kensington Sierra Madre offers onsite rehabilitation and tailored memory care neighborhoods
At The Kensington Sierra Madre, Our Promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own.
To learn more about stroke and recovery, watch the first part of our stroke and recovery event presented with our expert medical partners at Stanford Health.
Our passionate leaders wanted to create a community that takes assisted living to a higher level, supported by a team of loving, creative individuals — and they did just that.
We offer a full spectrum of clinical support so that no matter how our residents’ care needs advance over time, they have a home with us.
Expert memory care for those with post-stroke dementia
For stroke victims struggling with memory loss, or those with other forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, we offer enhanced, specialized memory care.
Our two memory care “neighborhoods,” Connections and Haven, are designed to maximize comfort, familiarity, and independence.
Above all else, we want our residents and their families to rely on us for expert care, while they are able to enjoy each other and all the precious moments yet to come.
To learn more about our community, reach out to our team today. We want to help make the transition to senior living as comfortable as possible for all involved.