Stroke and neurological rehabilitation


Blockage in an artery that leads to the brain can cause a stroke, which causes part of the brain to die from lack of blood flow. A stroke can be debilitating and frustrating, and many of the aftereffects may be permanent. Depending on the severity of the stroke, patients will need different levels of assistance. Most stroke survivors go from an inpatient hospital setting to some form of outpatient rehabilitation service. Some receive home health services, including nursing care. The team of rehabilitation professionals starts with a medical doctor called a ‘physiatrist’, who specializes in rehabilitation and directs the team effort. A number of other professionals may also add their expertise to the effort. These include rehabilitation nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, neuropsychologists, therapeutic recreation specialists, hospital chaplains, orthotists — that is, specialists who make braces and splints for limbs– and additional physicians. Patients may later receive these services at an outpatient rehabilitation center, where they meet with a social worker, who interviews them and their families to evaluate the level of support from family members. The social worker also meets with the patient’s rehabilitation team members to help them understand the family dynamics. A stroke survivor may have to learn basic skills, such as walking, speaking, getting dressed, and even using the bathroom. Most programs include motion and conditioning exercises, wheelchair mobility, speech and language therapy, and cognitive and perceptual retraining. Both stroke victims and their families may later wish to join support groups.

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