Strokes affect approximately 700,000 Americans each year. Sadly, about a third of these victims die, and the surviving two-thirds are significantly affected by strokes to one degree or another. The good news is stroke survivors can recover much of their lost physical and mental functions if they receive prompt intensive care and support. Short term rehabilitation facilities specialize in this kind of help and can rapidly turn around a stroke victim's prognosis.
The guiding principles of short-term therapy for stroke patients
Since time is a precious resource in the hours and days after a stroke, it's important to set priorities regarding treatment of stroke patients. There are clear, research-based principles to which short-term rehabilitation facilities should adhere during their brief time with stroke patients. These principles guide the priorities of care and help establish the most important duties and responsibilities:
A rapid, integrated approach to therapy
In the mid-20th Century, the accepted treatment regimen for patients in the first days and weeks following their stroke was plentiful amounts of rest and quiet. Unfortunately, research has shown the opposite philosophy should have been front and center; stroke patients should receive significant stimulation and intrusive care in the first few hours after the incident. Further, the therapeutic approach within a short-term rehabilitation setting should be provided by practitioners from multiple perspectives—medical, psychological, and physical.
Medical intervention focused on prevention and recovery
While it's no longer the exclusive treatment modality used with stroke patients, medical intervention still plays a vital role in helping these individuals recover during the first few hours and days. There are several drugs commonly prescribed for patients:
Daily living skills recovery
Ultimately, rehabilitation success is measured by how quickly and fully a stroke patient is able to return to their normal routines of daily life. That's what makes immediate intervention important for stroke patients; waiting too long after stroke onset can limit the future opportunities for full recovery.
Though it may seem somewhat trivial in the larger picture of regaining independence, control of bladder and bowel functions is essential for the well-being of stroke patients. In fact, urinary continence is the most important factor in predicting recovery and even survival. Bladder and bowel dysfunction contributes greatly to depression and can lessen the resolve of patients to keep progressing. That's why it's important for therapy teams to focus on getting patients up and out of bed and into the bathroom as quickly as possible.
Another area of focus is the use of hands and arms. Hand and arm functioning is another measure of independence for stroke patients, and the most effective therapy occurs immediately. This therapeutic response centers on finger, wrist, and shoulder extension and flexing; learning how to independently control each of these body parts is a key skill that contributes to long-term success. For the stroke patient who plans to return to a career or occupation, this is essential for making a successful transition from patient to independent worker.
Psychological and emotional recovery
As seen above, much of the debilitating effects of a stroke are intertwined with the emotional and psychological well-being of patients. Rehabilitation counselors and psychologists play a key role by providing the necessary support and encouragement that stroke patients need to keep moving forward. In addition, this team can provide valuable feedback to patients and other staff by objectively measuring and monitoring progress. Several diagnostic instruments can be utilized to test functioning from a mental and emotional perspective; implementing them shortly after a stroke occurs can provide valuable information for how to best proceed with treatment.
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