Occupational Therapy (OT) is a rewarding career that uses therapeutic interventions to aid patients with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities. Occupational therapy tools for stroke patients help patients regain the skills they need for everyday living and working. The development, improvements, and maintenance of these skills are taught through the therapeutic use of general daily activities.
Interventions for stroke patients are an important part of recovery, as therapy greatly improves the patient’s ability to recover and achieve independent life skills. Stroke patients lose many abilities to perform daily tasks, and occupational therapists have a profound impact on the lives of stroke patients.
The Role of Occupational Therapy in Stroke Rehabilitation
Strokes, also known as a brain attack or cerebral vascular accident (CVA), are the leading cause of disability and the fifth cause of death in the United States. According to Stroke.org, a stroke results from the brain becoming oxygen-deprived when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked and bursts or ruptures.
Many stroke patients lose the ability to perform simple daily tasks like dressing or bathing themselves, cooking, and even writing. Occupational therapists play an essential role post-stroke as patients face possible long-term disability.
The goal of an OT is to improve the sensory and motor abilities by reprogramming parts of the patient’s brain through therapy. Occupational therapy helps patients adjust to post-stroke struggles in the following ways:
Learn to Maneuver and Overcome Major Physical Changes
After a significant stroke or cerebrovascular accident (CVA), many patients discover they must entirely alter their lives. Restricted mobility can be an overwhelming experience, and this is where OTs come in to help.
A critical aspect of recovery is adapting the living spaces to suit the patient’s needs. The OT and the family restructure the home and make essential additions that make it easier and safer for the patient to get around.
OTs teach their patients how to adapt to their new movements or reduced range of motion. An example of this is breaking down a task that used to come quickly.
The OT teaches the patient to break the task into smaller parts, and they continuously practice the steps until they can handle the entire job. The occupational therapist helps the stroke patient understand how to maneuver and overcome the new challenges they may face.
Address Emotional Challenges
An emotional rollercoaster is an understatement of what a patient and their family are going through. In addition to helping the patient overcome physical and cognitive challenges, the OT addresses emotional challenges.
The OT identifies activities that the patient previously enjoyed and provides therapy that helps them return to those activities, which helps to improve the patient’s emotional state.
Overcoming any emotional challenge will be incredibly difficult. However, allowing patients to learn how to do things they genuinely love makes a significant difference. Occupational therapists are an essential part of the stroke patient’s recovery. They can improve the overall quality of their lives as they aid the patient with mobility, housing, and helping with physical or emotional challenges.
Occupational Therapy Interventions After Stroke
Occupational therapy and stroke intervention offers tools that help stroke patients improve impaired sensory and motor abilities and regain the skills needed for work, home, and school, including dressing, bathing, cooking, writing, driving, and using the computer.
Occupational therapy teaches stroke patients strategies for overcoming challenges and adapting to a new range of motion and movement. OT may include training with assistive devices, such as extended-handle tools to obtain objects from shelves or the floor.
Stroke survivors struggle because simple pre-stroke skills and movements often become problematic after a brain attack or CVA. Occupational therapists help patients resume tasks and regain function by using OT interventions for stroke, including preparing the patient’s home to meet safety needs and improve the quality of life. Home preparations may include:
- Evaluating the house for safety concerns and making suggestions
- Recommending home equipment to support independence
- Recommendations on setting up the home to improve the patient’s day-to-day tasks
- Training in daily activities like opening packages, using the computer, getting dressed, and preparing meals.
- Instructing family members and caregivers on tips to encourage independence and participation in activities.
CVA Treatment Ideas
Most stroke patients need occupational therapy to resume daily activities. Cerebral vascular accident (CVA) therapy is personalized to match the patient’s unique limitations as they relearn life skills. The therapist prescribes exercises and activities to restore physical and cognitive abilities that support the patient.
The therapist assesses the current challenges and difficulties during the initial visits, including new limitations and the physical environment. The OT considers the severity of the stroke suffered and how much therapy is needed. As the treatment progresses, the OT provides ongoing support and advice for the patient and the family.
The therapist provides stroke evaluation occupational therapy, which includes devising new strategies to reach advanced goals as the patient recovers. Occupational therapy strategies allow the patient to regain as much independence as possible. The occupational therapist prioritizes the stroke patient’s quality of life.
OT Activities for Stroke Patients
Acute stroke occupational therapy is needed when the patient experiences a loss of physical or cognitive function. The stroke may cause temporary or permanent damage to parts of the brain and may cause behavioral and cognitive changes, memory and vision problems, severe depression, or anger. The changes that a patient experiences correspond with a specific brain region damaged by the stroke.
Brain damage caused by a stroke is not necessarily permanent. For example, the brain’s left hemisphere causes weakness and paralysis on the right side of the body.
When the stroke kills brain cells in the right hemisphere, the patient may struggle to recognize facial cues or control their behavior. An occupational therapist often recommends the activities listed below following a stroke:
- Music therapy – Occupational therapists recommend singing along with favorite songs to encourage brain healing during stroke recovery.
- Gardening – Stroke patients can benefit from resuming hobbies like gardening because it encourages physical activity and time outside. The brain activates muscles when the patient attempts to resume activities they enjoyed before the stroke.
- Wii Games – the Wii gaming system offers a fun therapy; it doubles as a game and rehab with options like tennis or bowling that can be performed while seated or standing.
- Poker – poker provides an interactive game that friends and family can play with the stroke patient. Poker encourages strategy and critical thinking during fun interactions.
- Caring for a pet – Patients with advanced limitations may enjoy petting the animal because it is therapeutic for the mind and body. Patients who can feed a pet and clean the litter box can perform these basic pet care skills as therapy.
Contact TheraEx Staffing
Physical therapists who provide interventions for stroke patients are in high demand. TheraEx Staffing connects physical therapists with stroke patients at hospitals, medical facilities, nursing and rehabilitation centers, and physical therapy clinics. Contact TheraEx Staffing to connect with physical therapy opportunities nationwide.