What Does an Occupational Therapist Do for Adults With Stroke?

What does an occupational therapist do for adults with stroke? Let’s find out

Did you or a loved one suffer from a stroke? Do you want to know how you can get back to your usual lifestyle? Then you need an occupational therapist. What does an occupational therapist do for adults with stroke? They help you to relearn activities of daily living (ADLs) like how to shower, groom yourself, get dressed, and feed yourself. Keep reading as we explore several FAQs about your stroke recovery process. 

What are the Types of Stroke?

Our brains control our movements, store our memories, and are the source of our thoughts, emotions, and language. Our brains also control many body functions like breathing and digestion. A stroke is called a brain attack, and it occurs when there’s a blockage of blood supply to a part of the brain. A stroke also occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. In either case, some parts of your brain get damaged as your brain cells cannot get the oxygen they need to survive. Furthermore, this damage can lead to long-term disability or even death. 

There are three main types of stroke. Let’s consider each in turn:

Ischemic Stroke

Approximately 87% of strokes are ischemic strokes. An ischemic stroke happens when oxygen-rich blood flow through the artery to the brain gets blocked. 

Hemorrhagic Stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery in your brain leaks blood or ruptures. The leaked blood then creates too much pressure on your brain cells, leading to damage.  

What causes hemorrhagic strokes? High blood pressure and aneurysms (balloon-like bulges in an artery can cause it to stretch and burst). 

There are two main types of hemorrhagic stroke:

Intracerebral Hemorrhagic Stroke

This is the most common type of hemorrhagic stroke. It occurs when an artery in the brain bursts and floods the surrounding tissue with blood. 

Subarachnoid Hemorrhagic Stroke

This is a less common type of hemorrhagic stroke. It causes your brain to bleed in the area between your brain and the thin tissues that cover it.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA or Mini Stroke)

A TIA or a mini-stroke differs from the major types of stroke. The blood flow to your brain is blocked for no more than 5 minutes. 

Please take note of the following details about TIAs:

  • A TIA is a warning sign of a future stroke.
  • A TIA is a medical emergency, just like a major stroke.
  • Strokes and TIAs require emergency care. Therefore, you must call 911 immediately if you feel signs of a stroke or see the symptoms in someone around you. 
  • At the beginning of a stroke episode, there’s no way to tell if it’s a TIA or a major stroke. 
  • Blood clots are often to blame for TIAs.
  • More than a third of people with TIAs don’t get treatment and end up having a major stroke within a year. As many as 10% to 15% of people will have a stroke within three months of a TIA. 

Therefore, you must recognize and treat TIAs to lower the risk of a major stroke. If you have a TIA, your healthcare team will find the cause of your mini-stroke and take the necessary steps to prevent a major stroke. 

What are the Signs of a Stroke?

Observing any of the following signs of a stroke? Then stop and call 9-1-1 immediately!

 

You need to be aware of the signs of a stroke. They include the sudden onset of:

  • Numbness or weakness in a person’s face, arm, or leg. This is often dominant on one side of the body.
  • Confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.
  • Severe headache with no known cause.

If you or anyone has any of the above symptoms, then call 9-1-1 immediately. 

What Should I Do if I Believe Someone is Having a Stroke?

Time matters a lot for stroke victims, and we have a memorable acronym that will guide you on what you should do: FAST. 

  • F – Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • A – Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Are they unable to raise one arm? Or does one arm drift downwards?
  • S – Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Do they sound blurred or strange?
  • T – Time: If you see any of these signs, then call 9-1-1 immediately. 

Make sure that you note the time when any of the signs first appear. Why? You will need to give this information to the healthcare provider to ensure informed treatment. By acting FAST, you get the person the treatment that they desperately need as quickly as possible. 

Furthermore, if you suspect that you’re having a stroke, do not drive to the hospital or have someone else drive you there. Instead, call an ambulance so that the medics can start life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room. 

Note: Even if your symptoms go away, do not ignore your health. You may have experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA), and you still need to get medical attention to prevent a full-blown stroke attack. 

What Happens When a Stroke Patient Goes into Emergency Care?

It’s essential to get a stroke victim to the hospital very fast. Stroke treatments work best when the stroke is recognized, diagnosed, and treated within the first 3 hours of the onset of symptoms. If a patient doesn’t get to the emergency room in time, then they may not be able to receive some of these treatment options.

As soon as the emergency medical services (EMS) arrive to take you to the hospital, your stroke treatment begins. Once you’re at the hospital, you may receive emergency care, medication to prevent another stroke, rehabilitation to treat the side effects of the stroke, or all three. 

On the Way to the Hospital

If you or someone you know shows signs of a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. Please do NOT drive to the hospital or let someone drive you there. You will lose valuable time when you could have been receiving emergency care from the EMS. The best way to recover from a stroke is to get life-saving treatment started as soon as possible. 

Research shows that stroke patients taken to hospital in an ambulance are more likely to be diagnosed and treated faster than those who arrive via other transport types. Emergency care begins in the ambulance. 

Furthermore, EMS will take you to a specialized stroke center to ensure that you get the quickest diagnosis and treatment possible. These emergency workers will also collect valuable information to guide treatment. They will also alert the hospital’s medical staff before you arrive at the emergency room, thus giving them time to prepare for immediate treatment. 

At the Hospital

Once you arrive at the hospital, the health professionals will ask about your medical history and the time when your symptoms started. Brain scans will indicate the type of stroke that you had. Your medical team at the hospital will likely consist of a neurologist who treats brain disorders, a neurosurgeon who performs brain surgery, and/or a specialist in a related area of medicine (as per your unique health requirements). 

If you get to the emergency room within 3 hours of the first symptoms of an ischemic stroke, you may receive a thrombolytic or a clot-busting medication to break up the blood clots. The tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is the most popular thrombolytic medication. 

tPA improves your chances of recovering from a stroke. Research shows that ischemic stroke patients who receive the drug are more likely to recover fully or have less disability than those who do not receive this medication. Furthermore, patients who receive tPA are less likely to need long-term care in a nursing home. 

However, sometimes more advanced medical interventions are necessary to stop the bleeding and save brain tissue. Examples of such interventions include:

  • Endovascular procedures: These may be used to treat certain hemorrhagic strokes. The doctor inserts a long tube through a major artery in the leg or arm and then guides the tube to the site of the weak spot or break in the blood vessel. The tube is then used to install a device (such as a coil) to repair the damage and prevent bleeding. 
  • Surgical treatment: Hemorrhagic strokes may be treated with surgery. If the bleeding is coming from a ruptured aneurysm, then a metal clip may be inserted to stop the blood loss. 

After the Immediate Crisis and Stabilization

What happens after the medical team at the hospital resolves the crisis? Stroke prevention and rehabilitation. 

If you’ve had a stroke, then you are at high risk for another one. The statistics indicate that:

  • 1 of 4 stroke survivors has another stroke within five years.
  • The risk of a stroke within 90 days of a TIA may be as high as 17%, with the highest risk being within the first week. 

This is why it’s important to treat all underlying causes of stroke such as heart disease, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation (fast, irregular heartbeat), high cholesterol, and diabetes. Your doctor may prescribe medications, diet changes, exercising, or adopting other lifestyle habits to offset the risk of another stroke. You may also need stroke rehabilitation to get you back to your daily routine as quickly as possible. 

Is Occupational Therapy for Stroke Patients Effective?

Occupational therapy for stroke patients can improve the chances of recovery.

 

Yes, occupational therapy has proven to be effective in stroke recovery. It addresses the physical, cognitive, and emotional challenges that accompany a stroke. Occupational therapists are essential in helping stroke survivors engage in and eventually master activities that they want and need to perform. 

Can a Person Walk Again After a Stroke?

Most stroke survivors will have difficulty walking around because of stroke damage to parts of the brain that coordinate movement. Brain signals can get scrambled, and the mind and muscles may not work very well together. Some issues include:

  • Weakness: Many people experience weak muscles after a stroke. This weakness might be in a small area or an entire side of the body. You may not be able to move some muscles at all. 
  • Spasticity: This occurs when your muscles remain tight and are hard to stretch. Your fist may be clenched, or your arm may remain pressed against your chest.
  • Foot drop: Your foot muscles may be weak, or you may be unable to move them. When you walk, you may not be able to lift your foot normally with each step. When your foot drags on the ground, it hampers your ease of movement. 

A stroke may also affect your mobility by:

  • Changes in feeling: You may lose feeling in your legs and feet or you could feel a “pins-and-needles” sensation. Parts of your body may become extremely sensitive and painful. 
  • Exhaustion: You may get tired quite easily. Simple activities will now require a lot of energy and coordination.
  • Coordination challenges: Stroke often results in some brain damage that impacts your ability to move and do so fluidly. This is called ataxia, or a loss of muscle control and coordination of voluntary movements. 
  • Balance issues: You may also feel dizzy or unsteady on your feet after a stroke. 

The extent of your mobility after a stroke depends on several factors:

  • The severity of the stroke;
  • The parts of your brain that were affected
  • The recovery of your motor sensory nerves
  • Your medical history 

You may be able to walk again with the assistance of walking devices (and possibly independently). 

How Long is Rehab After a Stroke?

The length of rehab depends on the same factors as your ability to walk again post-stroke. However,  the nature and quality of your rehabilitation also play a role. 

What Can I Expect From Occupational Therapy for My Stroke Recovery?

Your occupational therapist will help you to maximize your independence by helping you to relearn activities of daily living (ADLs). These activities may include getting up from bed, toileting, self-grooming, getting dressed, and feeding yourself. You may also work with a physical therapist (before or simultaneously) to help you increase your range of motion and strengthen your muscles. 

Occupational therapy helps you make the best of your living, work, or school environments. Occupational therapists assist all persons of all ages and in a variety of settings. However, the degree of your stroke prognosis and your health and mobility goals will influence your occupational therapy sessions. 

How Do I Find a Rehabilitation Program for Stroke Recovery?

At Moving With Hope, we have a team of experts in occupational therapy, physical therapy, as well as speech and language therapy to support your stroke recovery. We also work closely with your existing medical professionals to provide the best rehabilitative care to suit your condition and improve your strength and capabilities. Contact Moving With Hope today so that you can begin the journey to your improved mobility and best health. 

What does an occupational therapist do for adults who are stroke survivors? An occupational therapist will help you to regain your mobility and independence. Do you need to find an effective and affordable rehabilitation program in Shelton, CT? Then you need to visit Moving With Hope!

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