Following a stroke, a patient's main focus is on rehabilitation, or re-learning those functions that the stroke has taken away. Rehabilitation begins immediately and nearly always requires the assistance of a caregiver (therapist, family member, home care professional) as the patient regains strength and confidence.
Persons who have suffered a stroke face an uphill battle. According to the National Stroke Association, only about one third of stroke victims recover with minor or no complications. The remaining patients may require long-term care either at home or in a facility with therapeutic and nursing care. The good news is that there are some activities that caregivers can encourage that will shorten recovery time and maximize outcomes.
Aerobic Conditioning - This includes basic exercises such as walking, sweeping, riding an exercise bicycle, etc. These exercises should be performed daily for at least 20 minutes and are highly beneficial in recovery even if started long after the initial stroke occurred.
Strength Training - Resistance (elastic) bands, free weights, exercise machines are great ways to increase strength and enable the stroke patient to resume their daily activities. These exercises should be performed 2-3 times per week. Caregivers play an integral role in the strength training program by providing encouragement and ensuring safety.
Flexibility Training - Stroke patients should incorporate stretching exercises into their rehabilitation regimen to prevent tightening of the muscles, Caregivers can assist by providing the stretching tension that the individual may not be able to provide on his own. Stretching exercises should be performed 2-3 days per week and each exercise should be held for about 30 seconds each.
Neuromuscular Training - Neuromuscular training helps develop fine motor skills, balance and coordination - abilities often diminish as a result of a stroke. These exercises - standing on one leg, manipulating small objects with the hands, etc. will help develop and refine these abilities over time. Assistance from a caregiver is needed to prevent injury and provide emotional support. Relearning fine motor skills can be very frustrating without support, encouragement and a helping hand!
For a complete guide to stroke recovery and exercise details, please visit the National Stroke Association's website and download "Hope - The Stroke Recovery Guide" (76 pages)
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