Rehabilitation Helps Stroke Patients Recover Skills

Therapy Helps in Regaining Coordination, Full Speech, and Other Abilities

Each year in the United States, approximately 730,000 people are affected by strokes, and that number is expected to surpass the 1 million mark by 2050. Today, the amount of stroke rehabilitation a patient receives can be severely limited by health plan restrictions, yet doctors and other medical professionals agree that a comprehensive rehabilitative therapy program provides the best chance for the recovery.

Of the 72 million Americans who have experienced serious injury, stroke, or other disabling disease, more than 60 percent never received proper rehabilitation. Yet the earlier rehabilitation begins, the more likely a patient is to regain the ability to function and return to a productive and satisfying life.

Treatment for a stroke begins immediately in the hospital with acute care, helping the patient to survive and avoid another stroke or similar attack. The next step, spontaneous recovery, happens naturally to most patients as they gradually regain some of their lost sensory and motor skill abilities. This usually happens during the first few weeks of recovery, but steady progress can take place over a longer period of time.

Rehabilitation programs are critical in helping patients regain lost skills, relearn tasks and work to be independent again. While many healthcare professionals are involved in administering a rehabilitation program, treatment is often managed by a doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R). This medical specialist will evaluate the patient’s condition and develop a customized program of rehabilitation services designed to restore lost function.

Care may be provided by physical and occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, psychologists, rehabilitative nurses, social workers, geriatricians, neurologists, and other specialists as part of a treatment and rehabilitation team. The PM&R physician will manage the team, making sure that all components of the rehabilitation program are working together for the benefit of the patient. In addition to treating symptoms, the PM&R physician’s role is to coordinate all aspects of the continuing treatment of a patient with stroke. It’s important to have a coordinated effort, because it provides the best possible rehabilitative care for the patient. By directing the efforts of other professionals and gathering and analyzing information from their treatment sessions, the PM&R physician helps to ensure that continuity in care is covered and no aspects of treatment are unnecessarily duplicated.

This personalized rehabilitative care is designed to help the patient regain the ability to function as independently as possible at home, work, and in the community. It involves learning to perform the daily activities of living in order to achieve the best possible quality of life.

PM&R physicians help stroke survivors achieve this goal. There are nearly 4 million stroke survivors in the United States. The key word is survivor, because although a stroke may be debilitating, it’s not the end of the road. There’s life beyond a stroke. However, it is important to remember that stroke rehabilitation takes time. Patients and their families will need to take one day at a time. Each advance in a patient’s skills and condition is a victory and over time, a number of small victories can add up dramatically.

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