Rehabilitation is a team effort. The team of stroke rehabilitation specialists usually includes physiatrists, neurologists, rehabilitation nurses, physical and occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, psychologists, social workers, recreational therapists, and case managers. This team seeks to reduce disability in the following six areas:
- Mobility (e.g., moving in bed, getting up from a chair, sitting on a toilet)
- Locomotion (e.g., walking or using a wheelchair, climbing stairs)
- Self care (e.g., brushing teeth, dressing, cooking, driving a car, etc.)
- Communication (e.g., speech problems, difficulty remembering appropriate words, swallowing problems)
- Cognition (e.g., mental functioning and organization, memory problems)
- Control of bowel and bladder function
The team addresses these problems by providing education to the patient and family. The team also helps the patient to use exercise and training to make the best use of muscles that are recovering. Expert medical treatment from the team is meant to simplify the care that is needed so that the patient can return to home, family and work.
The team members—physiatrists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists—are discussed in more detail.
Physiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation, including pain management and spine problems. They help people regain function after surgery, a stroke, or an injury.
Physiatrists lead a team of health professionals that may include rehabilitation nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, therapeutic recreational specialists, and social workers. These rehabilitation specialists work together to improve a person's recovery from an illness, surgery, or injury with the goal of returning to their previous lifestyle of independence.
Physical therapists can help stroke patients to regain strength and mobility. Therapists can help patients learn how to use walking aids such as crutches, a walker, or a cane when needed.
Occupational therapists can teach patients how to modify the home and workplace environments for safer and more effective mobility. Occupational therapists can recommend assistive devices to aid in tasks such as driving, bathing, dressing, housekeeping, and certain work activities.
Speech-language therapists can help stroke patients maintain as many communication skills as possible. Therapists also can teach communication techniques that conserve energy, including non-verbal communication skills. Speech-language therapists are also available to:
- Recommend appropriate communication techniques to provide treatment that will aid in the success of daily activities.
- Treat all types of speech, language, and communication problems.
Prosthetists and orthotists
Prosthetists specialize in the fabrication of artificial limbs (prostheses), and orthotists specialize in fabricating devices (orthotics) to support or control a part of the body--such as an arm or leg--that has been impaired due to recent surgery, stroke, or injury. These devices include a range of splints, braces, and special footwear. The prosthetists and orthotists work alongside doctors, nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists to provide the best possible rehabilitation.