Joe's Stroke Rehab
As an Occupational Therapist, stroke rehabilitation is a strong interest of mine. I first read about the concept of ‘NEUROPLASTICITY’ at university, I instantly was drawn to the idea that by performing certain exercises the brain can be stimulated to regrow/rewire in a way that compensates for areas that have been damaged in cases of injury, disease, stroke, etc. Loss of singular or bilateral hand function is a common outcome following brain injury, disease, or stroke, which can lead to compromised independence. Our hands are our primary means of interaction within our environment, and we need them for virtually every activity we undertake. For this reason, Physical Therapists, including Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists, believe in a strong approach to hand therapy and rehabilitation.
I started working with Joe about two years ago after he was transferred from hospital to an aged care facility. Joe had sustained a stroke whilst he was living at home. When I first met Joe, I was still quite inexperienced when it came to stroke rehabilitation, but I was excited about the opportunity to finally put my university training to good use. To start with, the rehab programme I developed consisted of basic hand and upper limb exercises. Strengthening the muscle groups of the hand, wrist and arm was our primary focus, followed by the integration of simple, yet functional activities with an aim to improve coordination. These tasks included stacking dominos and picking up marbles from a bowl and placing them into a cup.
After reading numerous articles on stroke rehabilitation, I decided to implement a philosophy by which Joe and I still operate under during our sessions. Our philosophy is “if it’s too easy, it’s a waste of time”, in essence, the more his hand function improved, the more I graded his exercises to achieve an optimum level of difficulty. I found that this simple philosophy has been a catalyst for maintaining Joe’s motivation over the years, it has also been instrumental in adding variety to Joe’s programme as his hand/arm function has improved. Through Joe’s determination, persistence, and belief in his rehabilitation goals, he has regained control of his left hand and independence and can once again use it to assist with his daily activities.
When it comes to rehabilitation, Physical Therapists (admittedly) seem to have the easy job as all we really do is provide our Clients with the right exercises for their particular rehab programme. Occasionally we may have to provide a demonstration, but for the most part we tend to play a secondary role in the rehabilitative process. The most challenging part falls on our Clients themselves who spend hours upon hours completing set exercises as per recommended by their Physical Therapists. Throughout the time I’ve worked with Joe, he has demonstrated commitment to his rehab programme and has shown great resilience in times of adversity. To his credit, he has remained focused on his goal of restoring and maintaining function to his left hand. I am truly proud to see how far he has come with my assistance. It’s been an absolute privilege to work with a client who has been so devoted to his own rehabilitation goals.