The Medical Rehab Team
The treatment of a patient after a stroke is multidisciplinary, requiring the support of several members of a team of medical professionals. These include rehabilitation specialists; rehabilitation nurses; physical, occupational, recreation, speech and language therapists and mental health professionals.
Primary Care Physicians, Neurologists and Physiatrists
Primary care physicians are responsible for managing and coordinating the long-term care of patients, including the incorporation of rehabilitation programs according to the needs of each patient. Primary care physicians are also responsible for general health care and for advising the patient how to prevent a future stroke, for example, controlling blood pressure or diabetes and eliminating risk factors. Neurologists generally direct teams for stroke-intensive care and patient care while in the hospital. Physicians specialized in other fields assume responsibility after the acute stage has passed, including physiatrists , who specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
Nurses help survivors relearn how to manage their personal care and perform the basic activities of daily living. Rehabilitation nurses also work with survivors to reduce the risk factors that can cause a second stroke and provide training for family and caregivers.
Physical therapists are trained in all aspects of anatomy and physiology and can evaluate the patient to design individualized rehabilitation programs to support successful recovery of functions. Physical therapists help survivors regain use of their legs and arms. These therapists teach how to use assistive devices, such as canes, walkers, or wheelchairs, and establish exercise programs to help people retain the skills they have just recovered.
Occupational Therapist and Recreational Therapist
Occupational therapists help survivors relearn the motor skills needed to perform occupational activities, like house cleaning or gardening and basic activities of daily living. They also teach people how to develop strategies and adapt their environment to support their daily activities. For example, people who have limited use with one hand may replace the buttons on their clothes with Velcro. Finally, many occupational therapists teach people how to make changes in their homes to increase safety, remove barriers and facilitate physical functioning. For example, installing grab bars in bathrooms is a common recommendation made by occupational therapists. Recreational therapists help people with disabilities develop and use their free time to improve their health, independence and quality of life.
Speech therapists assist survivors with problems related to speech, writing, reading or understanding words (aphasia). They help with relearning how to use language, and they develop alternative means of communication. Speech therapists also help with swallowing issues.