Cognitive Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy for Stroke Patients

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After a stroke, rehabilitation may be needed to help the patient regain skills that may have been affected or lost. This can be a very trying and anxious time for the patient and their family members. However, cognitive rehabilitation and physical therapy can be very beneficial and important to overall recovery. At the Abramson Center’s Birnhak Transitional Care Program, our multi-disciplinary team works with the patient and their family to design an individualized approach to treating  the patient’s symptoms.

A stroke is the sudden death of some brain cells caused by a lack of oxygen when a blocked or ruptured artery disrupts the blood flow to the brain. Symptoms of a stroke depend on the area of the brain affected. Strokes usually occur on the left or right side of the brain. Strokes on the left side of the brain affect the left hemisphere and may cause paralysis on the right side of the body. Aphasia, which is a term for a wide range of speech and language problems, may also occur. Additionally, there may be memory problems, such as shortened attention span and difficulty in learning new information. Strokes on the right side of the brain often cause paralysis on the left side of the body and may cause difficulty with attention span, denial of having a stroke, judgement and visual/spatial problems. Both physical and cognitive rehabilitation may be helpful with overall treatment. Where the stroke occurs in the brain may determine what types of rehabilitation are needed.

To help manage the effects of a stroke, physical and occupational therapies with medical supervision are very important. The medical team, which at Birnhak Transitional Care consists of a physician, nurse practitioner, nurses, and physical, occupational and speech therapists, are all crucial to recovery. From a medical perspective, blood pressure and blood sugars are monitored on a regular interval. This is especially important during the first three hours of a stroke since major changes may occur during that time. There are many areas to address in stroke rehab. According to Dr. Jamie Swanson, associate medical director at Birnhak Transitional Care, the key to stroke rehabilitation is to focus on functional improvements so the patient can safely return home. Patients need to be able to communicate, maneuver around their house safely and manage their medications. It is important for the patient and family members to know that rehab is an ongoing process that continues at home and does not end at rehab. It is important according to Dr. Swanson to address the patient and family’s emotional concerns and to provide education to the patient and family about the re-occurrence of strokes and warnings signs to watch for.

Speech therapy is also an important component of stroke rehab since it addresses cognitive rehabilitation, speech and swallowing. The process starts with a thorough evaluation to determine the areas of deficit and other needs to address. After the evaluation is completed, weekly updates will follow to monitor progress and to continue to work through areas to address, Assignments are given to the patient to do for practice and reinforcement before the next session. Family and patient input are very important parts of the overall speech therapy process. The speech therapist also tests for swallowing problems and determines the correct food texture that is needed for the patient. A swallowing assessment is completed and weekly progress reports are completed. A unique feature of the Birnhak Transitional Care’s speech therapy and cognitive rehab program is a dedicated language lab. In this bright one-on-one environment there are old records, cooking utensils, memorabilia from the military and various parts of history to enhance the therapy process. According to Marilyn Stanford, speech language pathologist, the language lab is an effective way to balance therapy by mixing various forms of mediums in a dedicated room where there are few distractions and interruptions.

At Birnhak Transitional Care, our multidisciplinary staff works together during the patient’s stay to address their needs and their family concerns. Life-skills are stressed so that the patient and family are prepared to return home, however Many patients will need to continue various forms of therapy in their home or in an outpatient setting. To help with any transitions, our social workers will help families coordinate home health services and medical supplies to ease a patient’s transition and road to recovery.

If you need more information on stroke rehabilitation, please call Abramson Care Advisors, free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 215-371-3400.