Stroke is the leading cause of serious long-term disability. While stroke occurs more frequently in older adults over age 65, it can strike and immobilize an individual at any age. In fact, data from 2009, reveals that 34% of the people hospitalized for a stroke were less than 65 years old. Those that make it to the hospital within three hours after the first symptoms emerge stand a better chance of regaining their mobility after three months as opposed to those whose care is delayed. In any case, rehabilitation is crucial during the early stages of recovery. Rehab generally begins within 24 to 48 hours following a stroke if the patient is stable. A team of medical professionals works together to personalize a post-stroke recovery plan for each patient.
Brain cell damage from a stroke can sometimes be temporary or the brain can also reassign another part of the brain to control an area that is damaged. The American Stroke Association cites the following statistics regarding stroke recovery:
- Ten percent of stroke survivors recover almost completely. Another 10 percent require care in a nursing home or other long-term care facility.
- One-quarter percent recover with minor impairments.
- Forty percent experience moderate to severe impairments
The goal of rehab is to help the stroke survivor regain his/her independence by relearning basic skills like bathing, eating, dressing, and walking.
For example — physical therapists help a stroke survivor relearn movements such as walking, sitting, standing, lying down, and maintaining balance. They assign the patient a series of exercises that strengthen the weakened muscles. A speech-language pathologist not only helps with talking, reading, and writing, she also guides patients with dysphagia (swallowing). A neuropsychologist works with survivors who must deal with changes in thinking, memory, and behavior.
The risk of stroke is much higher in a person that has already experienced one. Therefore, an important part of rehab focuses on prevention. This includes education on healthy lifestyle habits, adhering to treatments that lower high blood pressure, and managing atrial fibrillation. Patients may also need a procedure to remove plaque buildup or open blockages.
By joining a rehabilitation program following a stroke, a stroke survivor stands a much better chance at regaining mobility and returning to a more independent life.