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Great Exercises For An Elder Loved One Who Has Had A Stroke

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In recent years, there has been a vast improvement in the recovery rates of stroke victims in the United States; however, according to the American Heart Association, stroke remains the fifth leading cause of death.

A stroke happens when a blood vessel inside the brain becomes blocked or bursts, preventing blood and oxygen from reaching the nerve cells in the brain. The symptoms of a stroke can be devastating, often resulting in temporary and permanent disabilities. 

However, certain activities, such as exercising and physical therapy, have proven beneficial to recovery. If you are a caregiver, you’ll want to try these great exercises for an elder loved one who has had a stroke.

How Does The Brain Recover From A Stroke?

When blood flow to the brain is cut off, it means that oxygen is not reaching it either. Deprived of oxygen, the nerve cells in the brain begin to die within minutes, causing temporary, and sometimes permanent, loss of mental and physical functions.

This loss of mental functions usually shows up as behavioral and cognitive changes, such as memory impedance, depression, and mood swings. The prevalence of each symptom depends on which area of the brain is damaged and the bodily functions it controls. Interestingly enough, when damage occurs to the left side of the brain, the functions on the right side of the body are affected. 

If your loved one has suffered a stroke, it’s important to remember that the damage from the brain injury may only be temporary and could improve over time. Even then, there is no reason to give up hope.

After all, brain cells can restructure and relearn information via neuroplasticity. By having your loved one repeat mental and physical tasks, their brain will eventually find an alternative way to process the incoming information.

There is evidence that unassisted, or spontaneous, recovery from a stroke is possible, although it is limited to within the first 6-months of the stroke. Once this period has passed, learning new skills and abilities occurs only through rehabilitation.

Stroke is the foremost cause of disability, and by implementing a strategic and cohesive exercise program, you can help your elder loved one regain their physical ableness. A neuroplasticity-based exercise regimen provides a limitless alternative to traditional methods of recovery.

What Are The Benefits Of Physical Activity After A Stroke?

Physical activity is vital in recovering from a stroke, and its benefits cannot be understated. 

A structured physical activity program helps stroke survivors regain muscle and movement functions, many of which they never thought possible. Not only does exercise improve physical abilities, but it also drastically reduces the chance of a secondary stroke occurring.

In fact, studies have shown that exercise can lower the probability of suffering a second stroke by up to 30 percent. 

Perhaps the most important benefit, however, is the boost in overall confidence and quality of life that physical activity provides. Many stroke patients give up hope of even the slightest improvement in their physical abilities, and when they realize that they’re improving, their effort levels grow substantially.

6 Stroke Recovery Exercises For Your Loved One To Consider

The post-stroke exercises most effective for stroke rehab are exercises that target specific areas and muscles in the body. By targeting these areas, patients will eventually gain a full range of motion with every muscle group addressed. 

Each exercise in the rehabilitation program was designed by a team of well-qualified physical therapists, physiotherapists, and healthcare providers.

Here are some of the most beneficial post-stroke rehabilitation exercises:

Arm Exercises

It’s common for stroke patients to lose the use of their arms after a stroke and for some, learning to deal with this handicap can be very difficult. That’s why it’s essential to focus on arm exercises that use the positions and motions as those used during usual daily routines, such as when picking up objects or placing objects on a shelf.

Arm exercises help improve motor skills while building muscle strength.

Balance Exercises

Balance and agility are nearly always affected by a stroke, but it’s not usually the result of muscle loss. Instead, this lack of balance comes from the neurological damage that occurs during a stroke. 

Through the repetition of balance exercises, many stroke survivors can regain a certain level of sure-footedness. Balance exercises are also easy to incorporate into a home exercise plan.


Core Exercises

Although rehab exercises typically focus on the extremities, having a strong and powerful core is essential as it acts as a foundation for the rest of the body. In a way, core exercises are a combination of physical therapy and strength training, often employing medicine balls as a means of increasing strength gain

Core exercises are also effective in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

Hand Exercises

Of all the body parts affected by a stroke, perhaps none are as problematic as the hands. We use our hands for almost everything we do and when that ability is compromised, it can be incredibly frustrating. Because of this, regaining strength and control makes hand function a priority.

Occupational therapists recommend implementing hand exercises into your home exercise program to increase the learning rate. Through the repetition of hand exercises, stroke survivors typically find that their hand strength and control return to near pre-stroke levels.

Leg Exercises

As we mentioned, leg strength is rarely the culprit of the balance and stability problems that result from a stroke, as neurological damage is typically to blame. Even so, leg strength is a vital component in stroke recovery because, without it, mobility is severely limited

When mobility is limited in such a way that it hinders or prevents other facets of stroke recovery, it can cause an undesirable ripple effect. However, this doesn’t mean that the rehabilitation process for the legs has to be pushed forward; it doesn’t. 

Instead, start the process slowly, with gentle stretching exercises and low-impact strength training. This low-impact training will help gradually build muscle in the legs and increase stability.

 

Shoulder Exercises

The shoulders are made up of some of the strongest muscles in the body, as they do a lot of strenuous lifting, pulling, grasping, and releasing. But as strong as they are, the shoulders too, can be weakened by a stroke. 

Unlike the hands and legs, where functionality and control are the primary concerns, with the shoulders, it is all about gaining the muscle back. There are a lot of rehabilitation centers and caregivers that employ gravity compensation techniques to expedite the process. 

Gravity compensation uses a weight system to counter the effects of gravity, and this creates added resistance. In turn, this resistance accelerates the muscle-building process.


So Why Is Exercise Key To Stroke Recovery?

The recovery rates of stroke victims are at the highest level in history, but even so, stroke remains the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Even when a stroke doesn’t cause death, it leaves the victim with mental and physical disabilities, of which, many are permanent. 

However, certain activities, such as exercising and physical therapy, work wonders in reducing and even eliminating the symptoms of a stroke. 

If you’re a caregiver for an elder loved one who has had a stroke, you should consider implementing these great recovery exercises.

Robert C. Fisher

Robert C. Fisher is a Nurse Director at a large medical center in Boston, MA, who holds a Master’s in Nursing Leadership and Administration and an MBA in Healthcare Management.

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