Stroke is all-too-common in elderly people and the population in general. In fact, stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability and the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Stroke Association.
For stroke survivors and their families, a good rehabilitation program is key to recovery. When an elderly person has a stroke, the amount of rehabilitation and the success of that rehabilitation depends on:
- Amount of damage to the brain
- Skill on the part of the rehabilitation team
- Cooperation of caregivers, family and friends.
- Timing of rehabilitation – the earlier it begins the more likely survivors are to regain lost abilities and skills
Depending on the severity of the stroke, elderly survivors’ lives and their ability to perform daily function can vary greatly. Because stroke survivors often have complex rehabilitation needs, progress and recovery are unique for each person.
Types of rehabilitation programs
There are several different types of programs and facilities that treat elderly stroke patients:
• Hospital programs in an acute care facility or a rehabilitation hospital
• Long-term care facility with therapy and skilled nursing care
• Outpatient programs
• Home-based programs
• Rehabilitation Specialists
What Rehabilitation Specialists Treat Elders Who’ve Had Strokes?
The types of specialists who treat elderly stroke patients include:
- Physicians: physiatrists (specialists in physical medicine and rehabilitation), neurologists, internists, geriatricians (specialists in the elderly), family practice
- Rehabilitation nurses: specialize in nursing care for people with disabilities
- Physical therapists: help to restore physical functioning by evaluating and treating problems with movement, balance, and coordination
- Occupational therapists: provide exercises and practice to help patient perform activities of daily living.
- Speech-language pathologists: to help improve language skills
- Social workers: assist with financial decisions and plan the return to the home or a new living place
- Psychologists: concerned with the mental and emotional health of patients
- Therapeutic recreation specialists: help patients return to activities they enjoyed before the stroke.
The treatment that the elderly stroke patient receives depends on the effects of the stroke on the elder. Effects of a stroke include:
- Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body that may affect the whole side or just the arm or leg.
- The weakness or paralysis is on the side of the body opposite the side of the brain affected by the stroke.
- Spasticity, stiffness in muscles, painful muscle spasms
- Problems with balance and coordination
- Problems using language, including having difficulty understanding speech or writing and knowing the right words but having trouble saying them clearly
- Being unaware of or ignoring sensations on one side of the body (bodily neglect or inattention)
- Pain, numbness or odd sensations
- Problems with memory, thinking, attention or learning
- Being unaware of the effects of a stroke
- Trouble swallowing
- Problems with bowel or bladder control
- Difficulty controlling emotions
- Difficulties with daily tasks
Although a majority of functional abilities may be restored soon after a stroke, recovery is an ongoing process. The goal of rehabilitation is to enable a senior who has experienced a stroke to reach the highest possible level of independence and be as productive as possible. Limestone Health Facility specializes in helping stroke victims recover and has individualized treatment programs available specifically for stroke patients. Call Edie Belue to set up an appointment today at 256-232-3461.