People who have suffered serious brain injuries, such as a stroke or a traumatic brain injury (TBI), may need a lot of care to regain a sense of normality in their lives.
It is why rehabilitation programs often need to involve a team of rehabilitative care specialists to help patients return to an independent lifestyle. There are also specialised centres to carry out rehab programs. It can be tricky knowing who does what, so here’s a little guide to help you better understand their roles.
This is a physician (physiatrist) or neurologist with advanced training in rehabilitation and leading the team of rehab care specialists. They help manage medical issues throughout the entire rehab period.
They orchestrate the rehab programme of a patient and manage their medical needs such as complications with the support of other specialists when necessary (e.g., urologist, cardiologist, etc.). They can also self-treat their patients using procedures if need be.
The expertise of a physical therapist is to train a patient with motor deficits to recover their basic forms of movement and strengthen any stroke-affected limbs.
The goal of physical therapy after a brain injury is to get you up and moving on your own as much as possible. Physical therapists help patients to safely re-learn basic movements and actions such as moving their limbs, grasping and holding objects in your hand and walking and standing up safely. When patients are too weak to participate in intensive programs, they may be offered to go to a qualified nursing facility for a period of time until qualified for rehabilitation.
An expert in rehabilitation, occupational therapists provide solutions to disability in everyday life as well as at work by using different types of care, advice and educational activities.
Learning basic actions such as eating, washing and dressing is hard work for patients recovering from a brain injury. In conjunction with a physical therapist, occupational therapists help patients continue to rebuild muscle strength, flexibility or find ways to accommodate any lasting impairments. They also suggest possible aids that may be needed to help someone complete basic daily functions.
Speech therapists help patients to solve impaired language and communication skills after a brain injury.
The speech therapist develops an education program which include exercises to improve problems such as stuttering, dyslexia & dysphasia, difficulties in writing or arithmetic or those related to loss of speech. They will perform a swallowing assessment, and if you have difficulty drinking or eating, they will work with you to improve your ability to swallow foods and liquids.
By knowing what people do in their roles, this gives you a better scope of what professionals are involved in helping treat patients with brain injuries and how the recovery process takes shape.
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1. Cleveland Clinic. (2018).
2. Everyday Health. (2020).
3. Stroke Recovery Association NSW. (2021).
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This document does not constitute the practice of medical consultation nor medical advice. Always seek the advice of your treating physician and/or specialist. If you suspect that you are experiencing symptoms of stroke, call for an ambulance immediately.