How Does Occupational Therapy Aid Stroke Recovery?

August 08, 2023

How Does Occupational Therapy Aid Stroke Recovery

Life immediately following a stroke can be highly frustrating. Depending on your stroke’s severity, the things you took for granted and were a matter of routine just days before may now seem hopelessly out of reach. You may have a deficit in communication skills, trouble walking or swallowing, problems with balance, difficulty moving your fingers or a limb, constant brain fog, trouble dressing, or a host of other symptoms. The good news is with immediate stroke recovery therapy, it’s possible to regain lost skills.

The role of occupational therapy (OT) in stroke recovery

One of your stroke recovery team members will be an occupational therapist. They will assess the stroke’s impact on your motor function, coordination, sensation, visual perception and cognition. They will also assess your ability to perform daily tasks, known as activities of daily living or ADLs. The assessments identify your areas of difficulty and help you and your therapist set goals.

Occupational therapists help find solutions to address the meaningful everyday activities of life. OT also enables you to participate in your communities and social life. Occupational therapy is essential for stroke patients to lead independent lives, live safely at home, return to work, school and self-manage their condition.

“Occupational therapists assess the impact of changes in motor function, sensation, coordination, visual perception, and cognition on a person’s capacity to manage daily life tasks. Intervention improves participation in meaningful roles, tasks, and activities; remediates deficits; minimizes secondary complications; and provides education and support to the patient and caregivers.”

Role of Occupational Therapy After Stroke, Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology

Occupational therapy focuses on your goals

Occupational therapy uses activities across the physical and mental domains to reduce your limitations and the risk of deterioration in your everyday abilities. Your stroke recovery treatment program will help you relearn how to participate in the tasks and activities important to you, relearn or compensate for lost or diminished skills, set recovery goals and educate your caregivers and family.

Your occupational therapist will:

  • Work with you to improve hand function and motor control in affected upper limbs.
  • Collaborate with other healthcare professionals such as optometry to regain deficit areas in your vision such as double vision and difficulty focusing.
  • Maximize your ability to perform self-care, leisure activities and tasks around the home.
  • Prepare your work and home environment for your return.
  • Teach you strategies to cope with the many changes associated with your stroke.
  • Educate your caregivers and family.

Occupational therapy prepares you to go home safely

Near the time of your hospital discharge, your occupational therapist may travel with you to your home to assess your capacity to safely navigate your home environment and your ability to complete your usual domestic tasks. They’ll consider environmental barriers, impairments, risk of falls, your ability to drive, your personal needs and the needs of those who care for you.

For instance, your therapist will assess your ability to get in and out of your bed, transfer from bed to toilet, your ability to dress, plan and execute tasks like preparing a simple meal, taking your medications safely, using the phone to call for help, or paying your bills. If you need help in any area, your occupational therapist will recommend assistive devices for you and your caregiver. Their goal is to ensure a safe transition home, help with your psychological adjustment and to help you regain as much independence as possible.

Once you are home safely, your inpatient therapist may recommend that you continue your recovery at an outpatient facility within Good Shepherd.  Here, you will focus on refining your balance, hand and arm coordination and strength and possible return to work and driving. Our outpatient locations use state-of-art technology for upper extremity electrical stimulation, balance training and vision remediation.

Outpatient occupational therapy improves long-term stroke recovery

For most stroke survivors, recovery rarely ends when you’re discharged from the hospital. In fact, your recovery may take months or years, depending on the severity of your symptoms.

After your discharge, it’s important to continue occupational therapy as an outpatient to reach the highest level of independence possible. OT will also help you refine specific skills that require fine motor function like writing, eating, typing on a keyboard, going grocery shopping, driving your car, using a wheelchair, and other activities of daily living.

Outpatient occupational therapy will focus on improving your mobility, strength, endurance and walking speed. Your therapist will also work with you on how to prevent another stroke, help you make appropriate lifestyle changes and make sure you’re taking your medications correctly.

As each stroke is unique, so is each person’s recovery journey. One stroke survivor may recover in three months and another in three years. Continuing occupational therapy after your stroke will help you regain the skills for the things you love to do.

To learn more about Good Shepherd Rehabilitation’s occupational therapy, visit our page or call 1.888.44.REHAB (73422).