The Road to Recovery Following A Stroke
Cerebrovascular disease is the third leading cause of death in the
United States after heart disease and cancer. At last count, there
were some 700,000 new strokes annually, with 160,000 deaths.
Fifteen percent of the survivors are destined to spend the rest of
their lives in some type of health care facility, another 20% will never
walk again without help, and 30% will forever be physically dependent on
others. The adjustment to such a catastrophe is all the more difficult
because most stroke victims are perfectly well until the onset of the
attack. Stroke leaves many of its survivors with physical and mental
disabilities which create a major social and economic burden.
The term "stroke" was chosen originally to emphasize the suddenness of the
symptoms. A previously well person is literally "stricken down," often
without warning. We know now that within the general category of illness
called stroke, a broad variety of problems exist, all of which share brain
dysfunction caused by abnormalities of the brain's blood vessels.
A stroke occurs when an artery to the brain bursts or becomes clogged by a
blood clot, cutting off the supply of oxygen to that part of the brain.
Brain tissue that is deprived of oxygen dies within minutes. As a result,
the part of the body controlled by those brain cells cannot function
properly: Known risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing a
stroke are high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis, the buildup of fatty
plaque in the arteries.
Your brain controls how you move, feel, think, and behave. Brain injury
from a stroke may affect any of these abilities, such as loss of movement
and of sensation often on one side of the body, difficulty with speech and
language, limited visual fields and perception, loss of emotional control
and changes in mood, problems with memory, judgment, problem-solving or a
combination of these.
The degree of recovery from a stroke varies greatly; Some people recover
quickly with little or no lasting effects, while others may be left
virtually helpless. A good deal depends upon prompt treatment to minimize
the brain damage.
Rehabilitation begins in an acute care setting (like Good Samaritan
Medical Center) when the patient is medically stable and able to benefit
from therapy; Under a doctor's direction, rehabilitation specialists are
consulted to provide a comprehensive treatment and restorative stroke
program which should include: rehabilitation nursing, physical
therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language therapy. Rehabilitation
continues into a sub-acute setting, such as the Goddard Center for
Transitional Care, and is supplemented with rehabilitation counseling,
recreational therapy, psychology; nutritional care, social work,
patient/family education, and community integration.
Following rehabilitation, approximately 75% of stroke survivors are
able to return home. Physical and occupational therapy play an integral
role in stroke recovery by teaching the stroke survivor and the family how
to function in the home setting safely and as independently as possible.
For most stroke survivors, this may mean learning to perform daily
exercises to increase strength, flexibility and stamina in order to
recover from the weakness or paralysis.
Instruction and adaptive equipment are assessed and provided in order to
optimize independence in activities such as grooming, dressing and
bathing. Problems such as limited reach, limited range of motion,
limited grasp, visual impairment, paralysis, lack of coordination
and balance are all conditions that make even the simplest of daily chores
Nominal or appropriate nutritional requirements are altered with strokes.
Modifications of diet may be necessary to meet the greater demands for
nutrients required by the body for energy production and maintenance
through rehabilitation. For each stroke survivor, a specialized
nutritional care plan is needed in order to assist in the recovery and
Through the rebuilding of lifestyles, each person is 'assisted toward
physical, psychological, and as appropriate, vocational independence. In
keeping with this holistic approach, Goddard Center offers a personalized
treatment plan to facilitate a return to the patient's optimal level of
function within their previous lifestyle. Recovery is enhanced by
intensive patient and family education.
Should you have any further questions regarding this article, please
direct your questions or comments to "Ask
the Doctor" section.
Copyright © 2004 - 2012Taras V.
Kochno, M.D. All Rights Reserved
Board Certified in
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation