Prime Time Living - Page 8 - Stroke recovery

Prime Time Living
- Page 8
Stroke recovery
Varied therapies in place on the road to recovery

By Margit B. Weisgal, Contributing Writer

Independence. Quality of life. These are terms used to define what stroke survivors strive for during their recovery. Recovery is a process, often a time-consuming one, and each person’s journey is different. Rehabilitation, usually a combination of speech, physical and occupational therapy, is required to relearn how to use parts of your body that the damaged section of your brain controls. In some instances, your brain will create new pathways, enabling you to regain physical health.

Karen Gonzalez, B.S.N., R.N., SCRN, stroke coordinator at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, talked about what’s involved.

“A lot goes into helping people who had a stroke,” Gonzalez explains. “Rehab begins immediately, but patients remain in the hospital for only a couple days before being moved to where they do more intense recovery. First, we find out what the person was capable of doing prior to the stroke, his or her functional ability. That becomes the objective for their rehab. Then, before anyone is discharged, patients are seen by one of our rehabilitation professionals to determine current functionality: a speech language pathologist, an occupational therapist or a physical therapist. Sometimes a doctor will mandate that the person needs to be examined and assessed by two or all three.

“The next decision is to where the person will be discharged and there are three options. Can she return alone to where she lives? Can he return to where he lives with part-time help? Or does the person need to go to a rehab facility? From our perspective, safety is a major concern, as is preventing another stroke, so those need to be considered.”

There are also different levels of rehabilitation, says Gonzalez. Acute rehab is intense, usually four hours a day. This takes place in a rehabilitation unit that’s part of the hospital or a center that speIndependence. Quality of life. These are terms used to define what stroke survivors strive for during their recovery. Recovery is a process, often a time-consuming one, and each person’s journey is different. Rehabilitation, usually a combination of speech, physical and occupational therapy, is required to relearn how to use parts of your body that the damaged section of your brain controls. In some instances, your brain will create new pathways, enabling you to regain physical health. cializes in rehabilitation. Sub-acute rehab is for those who can still improve but aren’t ready to return to their residences, so they may go to a nursing facility.

Therapy can last up to a year. Progress can take time but it’s worth it. In a new study funded by National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “Researchers found that functional improvements could be seen as late as one year after the stroke, which goes against the conventional wisdom that most recovery is complete by six months. The trial showed that 52% of the participants made significant improvements in walking, everyday function and quality of life, regardless of how severe their impairment was, or whether they started the training at two or six months after the stroke.”

“It’s about being motivated,” says Gonzalez, “but you need the physical stamina. In addition to what they do with their therapists, patients learn exercises they can do on their own, so they may continue toward improvement. Those who go back to where they live may be visited by a nurse or therapist, overseen by a case manager. We also provide other forms of support. Post-stroke, depression is common, so stroke support groups help address this. St. Joe’s offers a monthly meeting on the third Tuesday at the Orokawa Y in Towson, 600 W. Chesapeake Ave., Towson, MD 21204.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( www.cdc.gov ) says, “If you have had a stroke, you can make great progress in regaining your independence. However, some problems may continue:

•Paralysis (inability to move some parts of the body), weakness, or both on one side of the body.

•Trouble with thinking, awareness, attention, learning, judgment and memory.

•Problems understanding or forming speech.

•Trouble controlling or expressing emotions.

•Numbness or strange sensations.

•Pain in the hands and feet that worsens with movement and temperature changes.

•Trouble with chewing and swallowing.

•Problems with bladder and bowel control.”

Caregivers need support, too. Family members take on additional responsibilities while the patient recovers. The American Stroke Association (www.


Recovery, continued on page 24