According to newly released stroke rehabilitation guidelines, it is recommended that patients be treated at an in-patient rehabilitation facility rather than at a skilled nursing facility.

The guidelines, developed by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and published recently in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, also recommend that patients and caregivers should participate in a formal falls-prevention training program to help prevent falls at home.

Per the guidelines, an in-patient rehabilitation facility may be a freestanding facility or a separate unit of a hospital. While there, the stroke patient participates in at least 3 hours of rehabilitation per day from physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists, according to a media release from the American Heart Association.

“If the hospital suggests sending your loved one to a skilled nursing facility after a stroke, advocate for the patient to go to an in-patient rehabilitation facility instead—unless there is a good reason not to—such as being medically unable to participate in rehab,” says Carolee J. Winstein, PhD, PT, lead author of the scientific statement, in the release.

“There is considerable evidence that patients benefit from the team approach in a facility that understands the importance of rehabilitation during the early period after a stroke,” explains Winstein, a professor of biokinesiology and physical therapy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

The guidelines also recommend, per the release: Intense mobility-task training after stroke for all survivors with walking limitations to relearn activities such as climbing stairs; and an individually tailored exercise program so survivors can safely continue to improve their cardiovascular fitness through the proper exercise and physical activity after formal rehabilitation is complete.

More recommendations include: an enriched environment (which might include a computer, books, music and virtual reality games) to increase engagement and cognitive activities during rehabilitation; speech therapy for those with difficulty speaking following a stroke; eye exercises for survivors with difficulty focusing on near objects; and balance training program for survivors with poor balance, or who are at risk for falls.

“For a person to fulfill their full potential after stroke, there needs to be a coordinated effort and ongoing communication between a team of professionals as well as the patient, family and caregivers,” Winstein states in the release.

[Source(s): American Heart Association, Science Daily]