What is a stroke?

Stroke, also called brain attack, occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted. Disruption in blood flow is caused when either a blood clot blocks one of the vital blood vessels in the brain (ischemic stroke), or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into surrounding tissues (hemorrhagic stroke).

The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to function. Even a brief interruption in blood supply can cause problems such as impaired ability with movement, speech, thinking and memory, bowel and bladder, eating, emotional control, and other vital body functions. A small stroke may result in problems such as weakness in an arm or leg. Larger strokes may cause paralysis (inability to move part of the body), loss of speech, or even death.

Be prepared! Click here to learn the signs and symptoms of stroke, and have a plan!

The stroke rehabilitation program

Rehabilitation of the patient with a stroke begins during the acute treatment phase. As the patient's condition improves, a more extensive rehabilitation program is often begun.

The outlook for stroke patients today is more hopeful than ever due to advances in both stroke treatment and rehabilitation. Stroke rehabilitation works best when the patient, family, and rehabilitation staff works together as a team. Family members must learn about impairments and disabilities caused by the stroke and how to help the patient achieve optimal function again.

The goal of stroke rehabilitation is to help the patient return to the highest level of function and independence possible, while improving the overall quality of life — physically, emotionally, and socially. Rehabilitation is designed to meet each person's specific needs; therefore, each program is different. Some general treatment components for stroke rehabilitation programs include the following:

  • Treating the basic disease and preventing complications
  • Treating the disability and improving function
  • Providing adaptive tools and altering the environment
  • Teaching the patient and family and helping them adapt to lifestyle changes

Stroke can cause several types of disabilities: paralysis or problems controlling movement such as walking or balance and/or swallowing; sensory (ability to feel touch, pain, temperature, or position) disturbances; difficulty using or understanding language; thinking and memory problems, and emotional disturbances. Stroke rehabilitation can help you recover from the effects of stroke, relearn skills, and new ways to perform tasks and depends on many variables, including the following:

  • Cause, location, and severity of stroke
  • Type and degree of any impairments and disabilities from the stroke
  • Overall health of the patient
  • Family support

Areas covered in stroke rehabilitation programs may include:

  • Self-care skills, including activities of daily living (ADLs) — Feeding, grooming, bathing, dressing, toileting, and sexual functioning
  • Mobility skills — Walking, transfers, and self-propelling a wheelchair
  • Communication skills — Speech, writing, and alternative methods of communication
  • Cognitive Skills — Memory, concentration, judgment, problem solving, and organizational skills
  • Socialization skills — Interacting with others at home and within the community
  • Vocational training — Work-related skills
  • Pain management — Medications and alternative methods of managing pain
  • Psychological testing — Identifying problems and solutions with thinking, behavioral, and emotional issues
  • Family support — Assistance with adapting to lifestyle changes, financial concerns, and discharge planning
  • Education — Patient and family education and training about stroke, medical care, and adaptive techniques

Types of stroke rehabilitation programs

There are a variety of stroke treatment programs, including the following:

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