The Importance of Early Rehabilitation After a Stroke

A stroke is a complicated condition with widely variable effects on patients.  With a bit of luck, some people will not experience any lasting effects, while others can have serious impairments in their vision, hearing, speaking and understanding, movement, coordination, walking, balance and a variety of other functions.  In severe cases, patients may lose their ability to communicate, they may be unable to perform regular daily tasks to take care for themselves (dressing, bathing, grooming), or they may be confined to bed or a wheelchair.

Although the effects vary, there are some things that can be done to improve the outcomes.  First and foremost, recognizing what is happening and getting urgent medical care is paramount.  Getting to a hospital and receiving care within the first few hours can be the difference between life and death and can also significantly limit the effects of the stroke moving forward.  Secondly, it’s important to start treatment as soon as possible after the patient has been stabilized. 

When Should Rehab Start and What are the Benefits of Starting Right Away?

The rehabilitative phase usually begins, or should begin, while the patient is still in acute care in the hospital.  This has been shown to reduce the time for the hospital stay overall and usually occurs within the first 48 hours.  The first steps usually involve getting the patient to move and perform tasks independently to help limit weakness or paralysis that may set in. It’s also very important to start ambulating (walking) right away if possible. The longer a person stays in bed, the more complications will arise due to immobility such as:  bed sores, infections, deep vein thrombosis or falls.  Another important role of the rehab team after a stroke is to monitor the patient, especially during physical activity.  After a stroke, 23% of patients will have a repeats stroke, so the patient is not out of the woods and will need to be vigilant going forward, recognizing when something is off about their health.

Is There a Timeframe for Rehab? If I Start too Late Will it Help?

Although a patient can make progress working with the rehab team at any time, the first 3 months are when the most/fastest progress can happen.  So it’s important to get on board with a rehab program as soon as possible to achieve the best results for the long term. 

If your loved one has had a stroke, whether it’s recent or it happened some time ago and there are still some effects remaining, call us at PCA.  We can perform a detailed assessment and provide treatment either in the clinic, in the home, or we can even come to see them while they are still in the hospital and get the process started off right to get the best possible results.  

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