May is National Stroke Awareness Month and it’s a good time to reflect on the importance of stroke rehabilitation and the part it plays in helping those that have suffered a stroke recover and live fuller lives. Nearly 800,000 people have a stroke in America each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of that number, about two-thirds survive and have to work to overcome the devastation of their stroke. Ranging from mild to deadly, every stroke is different; however, there are some common ways that strokes can affect people. The effects of a stroke can cause behavioral, communication and physical challenges.
Leading cause of disability
A stroke happens when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain becomes blocked by a clot or ruptures, causing bleeding in the brain. A leading cause of long-term disability, strokes can disrupt the complex balance of the brain’s physical functioning. The nature and severity of the effects of a stroke depend on several factors such as the location of the blockage or hemorrhage and how much brain tissue was impacted. Strokes that occur on the right side the brain affect functioning on the left side of the body. Right brain strokes can cause paralysis and mobility problems on the left side of the body, vision problems, quick and inquisitive behavior as well as memory loss. Strokes that occur on the brain’s left side affect the functions on the right side. Left side strokes can cause paralysis and mobility problems on the right side of the body, speech problems, slow and cautious behavior and memory loss. Strokes that happen in the brain stem can affect both sides of the body and possibly cause total paralysis below the neck.
How does rehabilitation help?
A stroke rehabilitation program, like the one at Rehab First, uses a patient-centered and multi-discipline approach to help stroke survivors recover and reach their goals. Rehabilitation does not erase the effects of a stroke, but it helps patients strengthen their capability to be as independent as possible. Depending on the survivor’s needs, rehabilitation can improve the ability to provide self-care, increase mobility skills, help speech and language communication and increase social interaction. The American Stroke Association reports that 80 percent of strokes in adults are preventable, but the risk goes up once a person has already had a stroke. Rehabilitation reduces the risk of having more strokes by helping patients adopt healthy lifestyle habits while working on their physical and/or communication goals. Healthy lifestyle changes could include: blood pressure management, cholesterol control, diabetes management, increasing physical activity, adopting healthier eating habits, maintenance of a healthy weight and smoking cessation.
Rehabilitation is vital to helping stroke survivors get back to living to the fullest. Although, they may be anxious to get back to their normal activities, it is important that patients know that recovering from a stroke is a journey and may require patience. Maintaining a positive outlook and fully investing in therapy interventions can make a great impact on reaching goals. As they recover and rehabilitate, the support of qualified and compassionate therapists and rehabilitation staff can help provide expertise and encouragement. To learn more about how Rehab First can get you back on track after a stroke, click here.