Nearly 800,000 people suffer strokes in the U.S. each year – about one stroke every 40 seconds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
And, because stroke is also the No. 1 cause of serious, long-term disability in the country, stroke sufferers often must re-learn adaptive ways to accomplish everyday tasks that were once considered easy and commonplace.
This is where occupational therapy comes into play, says Oro Valley physical therapist Tim Pate.
“Occupational therapists are experts in helping survivors learn to overcome and adapt to muscular and neurological limitations after a stroke,” said Pate, Director of Rehabilitation at Copper Health Oro Valley. “Our goal is to ensure they can perform the daily tasks necessary to live life as active and independently as possible.”
A stroke most often occurs when the blood supply is reduced or interrupted to a part of the brain, cutting off necessary oxygen and nutrients for a period of time.
This lack of blood supply can quickly lead to the death of brain cells, causing damage to the brain that can be both permanent. This damage may lead to:
- Loss of Muscle Movement
- Memory Loss or Difficulty with Thought
- Difficulty Talking or Swallowing
- Difficulty Controlling Emotions
“These complications can of course make it difficult to perform many of the daily tasks necessary for a person to live their daily lives,” said Pate. “Tasks such as getting out of bed, walking, getting dressed, eating and drinking, using the bathroom, maintaining personal hygiene, and even social interactions can become difficult following a stroke.”
How Do Occupational Therapists (OTs) Help?
Often, the rehab process following a stroke requires a multi-disciplinary approach with an aim of decreasing stroke’s consequences to long-term daily living.
For occupational therapists, this involves helping stroke survivors improve basic daily skills as well as teaching strategies for overcoming skills lost after the stroke – movements like sitting up, getting dressed, and safely moving about the home.
“OTs do this by first assessing a person’s abilities, needs and rehab goals following the stroke,” Pate said. “The occupational therapist may evaluate a patient’s attempt to perform difficult tasks, then assess their environment at home, where they work, and so on.”
Once the occupational therapist has clearly identified needs and deficiencies, she or he will use this to help the patient develop a course of treatment. The course may include teaching alternative ways of accomplishing tasks, modifications within the home environment, practice exercises for improving movements, and/or the use of special equipment or aids.
If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke and would like to learn more about how occupational therapy can help develop a higher quality of life and independence, contact the Copper Health Oro Valley team today.