As an occupational therapist, I have worked to help many individuals recover from a stroke. One of the most important factors in stroke recovery is the involvement of the afflicted individual’s support network – most often their family.
Many physical, cognitive, and emotional changes may occur after a stroke. While I address these changes directly through treatment and rehabilitation techniques, I also aim to give families the necessary tools to help their loved one gain the most independence and quality of life possible. Only through working with the individual directly and with those closest to them may the greatest possible change be affected.
Now, you may be wondering what occupational therapy is and what we do. Well, we are a type of healthcare professional that focuses on helping people achieve their goals through everyday activities. These activities can range from getting dressed and cooking a meal to participating in hobbies and leisure activities.
When it comes to stroke recovery, occupational therapists play a crucial role in helping families navigate the challenges that come with it. We work with families to develop a personalized plan of care that takes into account their specific needs, abilities, and goals.
For example, if a stroke has affected a person’s ability to use their arms and hands, we may work with them to improve their strength and coordination through exercises and activities. We may also recommend adaptive equipment, such as utensils with larger handles or a dressing stick, to make everyday tasks easier.
We would also speak to the family and instruct them on how best to help. Of course, every case is different as is the capacity of each family to assist the recovery process; any good home-plan will accommodate these factors. However, one way in which most families assist the recovery process is by ensuring that their loved-one is regularly presented with cognitive and/or physical tasks that are safe and appropriately challenging. Struggling with tasks that were once trivial can be a frustrating part of stroke recovery, but it is nonetheless crucial. With family support, overcoming everyday challenges can become doable and even fun in some cases.
It is important to do exercises and activities that challenge the brain, such as crossword puzzles or memory games, to help improve cognitive abilities.
In addition to addressing physical and cognitive changes, we also support families in dealing with the emotional impact of a stroke. We understand that stroke can be a stressful and overwhelming experience, not just for the person who had the stroke but for their loved ones as well. We may provide counselling and support to help families cope with the changes and challenges that come with stroke recovery.
Stroke recovery is a serious matter, but it is often possible and even important to find humor and fun in the process. For the afflicted individual and their family, it is best if the process of recovery not feel like a chore – finding humor and making games can overcome this feeling.
For instance, I once had a client who struggled with buttoning his shirt after a stroke. To make the task more manageable and engaging, we turned it into a race. He would try to button his shirt as fast as he could, and I would time him with a stopwatch. It made the task more fun and challenging, and he felt a sense of accomplishment when he beat his previous time. Plus, it gave us a good laugh and helped to lighten the mood during our therapy sessions.
Finding the lighter side of a serious situation is important for many people in recovery.
In conclusion, occupational therapists play an essential role in supporting families who are recovering from stroke in the community. We work with families to develop personalized plans of care that address physical, cognitive, and emotional changes. And while stroke recovery is a serious matter, we believe that humor and fun can be a powerful tool in helping families stay motivated and engaged in their recovery journey. So, let’s find joy in the little things and make stroke recovery a little less daunting!
OT at Meridian Rehabilitation Galway