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Ask A Physical Therapist: How can therapy help recovery from a stroke?

May 10, 2017 | By Lisa Schwenk
Published in: Question Answer, Stroke, Therapy

An Occupational Therapist working with a patient in a kitchen setting

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. At Augusta Health, stroke care is coordinated through our Stroke Team, and multidisciplinary group that includes physicians, nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, health educators and other medical professionals. The team focuses not just on the treatment of those who have experienced a stroke, but also on prevention of stroke through educating the community about symptoms and risk factors.

Stephanie Mims, Director of Therapy Services
Stephanie Mims, Director of Therapy Services

Answer provided by Stephanie Mims, PT, DPT, MBA, Director of Therapy Services at Augusta Health and member of Augusta Health’s Stroke Team. Stephanie earned a BS in Exercise Physiology from West Virginia University and a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Temple University. She also received her MBA from West Virginia University. She has 12 years experience as a Physical Therapist, and loves working with the Stroke Team because it provides her the opportunity to help people get the best stroke care possible and get them back to living life again.

A stroke can be a very difficult time for both the patient as well as their family. It is filled with uncertainty and fear of how you or your loved one is going to recover from such a life changing diagnosis. Although some of the effects of a stroke will remain for a lifetime, many can be reduced or even eliminated with high quality therapy services such as those available here at Augusta Health.

Evidence shows that formal therapy programs started early on in the recovery from a stroke improve outcomes and overall level of long term disability. Therefore it is important to begin therapy once your loved one's physician determines it is appropriate to do so. Approximately one third of all people who have had a stroke don't have access to the therapy services that they need to assist in their recovery. In fact, few hospitals are able to offer the full continuum of care that is available here at Augusta Health.

Therapy often begins while your loved one is still a patient in the hospital, within a few days of the initial stroke. Highly trained Physical, Occupational, Speech, and Recreation Therapists evaluate your loved one to improve their overall function and work closely with the physician to determine the safest and most appropriate level of therapy for your loved to receive after their stroke. This can vary from an inpatient rehab or skilled nursing facility stay to home care therapy or straight to outpatient therapy. No matter which level of care is appropriate for your loved one, they will receive treatment sessions that are individualized for their specific needs. The goal of therapy is to get the patient as independent as possible depending on the type of stroke and the types of challenges they are facing as a result of the stroke.