Recognizing the symptoms of a stroke (BE FAST – Balance, Eyes, Face, Arms, Speech, Time) as quickly as possible and calling 911 is key to having the best recovery possible. However, getting to the hospital is just the first of four phases in your recovery.
Phase one starts with the care received in the hospital. Stroke patients are medically stabilized and typically begin therapies to address any stroke-related issues on the first or second day of their stay. Physical therapists can help patients improve balance, strength and mobility. Speech therapists work with patients on communication, speech, thought processing and swallowing. An occupational therapist can help patients with daily activities like dressing and grooming, as well as balance, home safety and equipment.
Phase two takes place in either an inpatient rehabilitation or skilled nursing facility. There, the patient continues to receive therapy after they are stable enough to leave the hospital. Physical, occupational, and speech therapists continue to work with the stroke patient, making sure that they can return home as safely as possible and enter their next phase.
Phase three is home-based care. Depending on severity, this could be home health therapy, where the therapists come to the patient’s home to work with them in their own environment. It could also be outpatient therapy where the patient receives therapy in a clinic to sometimes work with specialized equipment. The goal in either setting is to help the stroke patient reach their ‘new normal’ and maximize their independence.
Phase four is reintegration into the community. The patient continues therapy on their own with periodic check-ins with their therapist. This may involve going to a gym or taking classes, such as those offered by SamFit for balance, strength and flexibility, or classes offered by community groups or senior centers. The patient may also benefit from joining a support group, such as the stroke support group that takes place on the first Tuesday of each month at the Church of the Good Samaritan in Corvallis.
“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of rehabilitation to stroke recovery,” said Carrie Raymond, physical therapist at Samaritan Physical Rehabilitation Specialists – Corvallis. She and Physical Therapist Heidi Milstein developed the 4-phase framework for the Corvallis-based clinic. “We hope knowing about the typical path of recovery helps patients advocate for their rehab needs and helps them get the best outcomes possible.”