Living an Active Life After a Stroke: Stroke and Adaptive Devices
A stroke occurs when blood flow stops to an area of the brain, causing brain cell damage and dysfunction. The effects of a stroke can vary greatly from one individual to another because of differences in the severity and location of the brain cell damage. Common neurological deficits after stroke include varying degrees of weakness or paralysis, loss of coordination and balance, sensory loss and difficulty speaking or swallowing. Other symptoms can include pain, loss of memory and confusion, irritability, anxiety and depression.
Activities of Daily Living
Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are routine activities that a person does every day, such as eating, dressing, grooming, bathing, and managing a household.
A person who has suffered a stroke may have temporary or permanent physical, perceptual, or cognitive deficits, which make self-care difficult. Occupational Therapists are trained to help people achieve maximum independence with ADLs. Patients can learn how to perform routine tasks in new ways.
This may be done by:
- Adapting the activity
- Adapting the environment
- Improving function to enhance performance
Adaptive devices can help a person to maintain or improve function, alleviate joint pain and stress, and conserve energy. Devices commonly used after a stroke can facilitate tasks such as:
- Brushing teeth
The Occupational Therapist will customize the devices to meet the individual’s needs. It is important that individuals use the devices and practice the techniques daily so that they become as proficient and as independent as possible.
Splints, Slings, Braces
Hand splints may be indicated to control muscle tone and joint position to prevent pain, injury, and deformity.
Splints can also enable a person to use their hands or arms to perform ADLs.
Slings may be used to support the arm against gravity. This can reduce the risk of pain or injury to the shoulder joint during standing or ambulation.
Braces or orthotics may be used when individuals have weakness in the lower extremity. Supportive knee or foot braces may help one to stand or ambulate safely.
A physical or occupational therapist, along with a physician, will recommend the appropriate splint or brace when indicated.
What a Therapist Can Do
- Provide training to improve the ability to complete daily tasks
- Improve physical endurance and strength
- Help compensate for vision and cognitive loss
- Fabricate a customized splint to improve hand function
- Evaluate the home for accessibility and safety hazards
- Recommend equipment that can aid a person in completing tasks such as dressing, bathing, preparing meals
- Educate family members and caregivers about the needs and skills of the individual.
What You Can Do
- Engage in stroke education to become better aware of the effects of a stroke
- Participate in rehabilitation programs
- Practice tasks and exercises to increase strength and endurance and to speed recovery
- Consult a professional for specific recommendations