Stroke therapies highlighted at recent seminar

ST. MARYS - At a recent stroke prevention seminar at Elk Regional Health Center's Education Center, some of the discussion focused on treatments available to stroke victims. Katherine Brem, an occupational therapist with Elk Regional, said that recovery begins in the acute care hospital once a stroke victim is declared medically stable. Brem said it is at this point that the caregiver needs of a patient are assessed, with a physician determining a patient's strengths and deficits in designing a rehabilitation plan for them. "Right after the stroke, the goal is to assess the patient's status and see what the next step is going to be. Are they going to need to go to a nursing home or rehab center? The physician needs to make a referral to physical, occupational, or speech therapies to determine a plan," Brem said. Brem said that the focus of occupational therapy is on regaining and retaining an individual's functional independence through the use of work, self-care, and play in developing skills to prevent long-term disabilities. With physical therapy, Brem explained the goal is to restore function through movement and ambulation as well as to reduce pain and promote healing and recovery. Brem said that speech language pathology is used to evaluate and treat individuals with communication and swallowing disorders resulting from a stroke. "There are all different kinds of issues such as intelligibility-- if they don't have the motor control to make the proper movements to form the words. Swallowing, all these muscles in the throat can be affected, and with the musculature [therapists and physicians] do electrical stimulation and different exercises to help people swallow properly," Brem said. Brem said rehabilitation can take place in an inpatient or outpatient setting, as well as home health, in which a therapist comes into the home to work with a caregiver or the patient. Brem also said the therapies administered differ in their intensity and duration. "An inpatient rehab facility is kind of the middle of the road when a patient would stay for a period of time, usually three to four weeks as an average length of stay. Or they get intense rehab, usually three hours of physical, occupational and speech therapy a day," Brem said. Brem identified the goal of rehabilitation as being to restore a patient's independence to the greatest extent possible. "The overall goal of all rehab approaches is to help people be as independent as they can be. Treatment plans [are designed] to utilize purposeful activities and interventions that are designed to achieve the highest functional outcomes for the patients," Brem said. Pick up a copy of the Wednesday, May 23, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.