Can my sister still benefit from therapy after a stroke?

6 answers | Last updated: Oct 07, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My sister suffered a severe stroke to the left side of her body six months ago, she hasn't made any significant improvements over the last couple of months. She has very high tone so is very stiff, she is fully dependent on and is fed through a peg in her stomach. Recently she has started talking and making sense and even pointing out where she has pain.

The doctors have pretty much written her off with the last four months or so and she doesn't get speech and language therapy anymore, so I'm looking for suggestions as to what we could or should do?

She is only a young woman at 55 years and is still in the hospital.

Expert Answers

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

Very sorry to hear about your situation.

On occasion, particularly in patients under 65 years of age who are not on Medicare, her primary physician can order additional physical, occupational, and speech therapy that will be covered by insurance if they have reason to believe she is benefiting from these therapies. It sounds like she is continuing to improve, so I think it is worthwhile to check with her Internal Medicine doctor about getting such a referral.

Another option is to ask to be referred to a Physiatrist (Physical Medicine Doctor). They may be able to give you some further guidance on therapists who can work with her for recovery. And, they are often very good at treating spasticity issues. For example, they can utilize Botox injections and range of motion exercises to help with the painful spasms that occur on the effected limbs.

If all else fails, I would pay out of pocket for a few sessions with a therapist to give you a work-out plan that can be done at home. And, there is no question that the spasticity treatment should be covered by insurance.

I hope this helps. Good luck!

Community Answers

Patsaison answered...

My mother had a stroke and paralyzed left-side. She was 93; I was hoping she could get better, but some med mistakes were made by inexperienced doctor and she passed. I looked into Hyperbaric Therapy, Accupuncture, Mirror Box therapy, Chinese herbal meds for stroke recovery--which helped a bit, and lots of other materials.

Your sister is still young. Brain can heal itself, there is hope--but you or other sibblings need to ask yourself if you can commit to healing her. Read this book: "Brain, Heal Thyself" by Madonna Siles - A caregiver's New Approach to Recovery from Stroke, Aneurysm and Traumatic Brain Injuries.

PT/OT/ST at the level given, 1/2 per day, even if everyday, is of minimal use, if not worthless. Better recovery and care could be given at home, by loved ones--but it is a big commitment--if you love her and are able, that's what I would do. I regret not being able to do so for my mother--should have brought her home since the rehab and care at the nursing home was not only of little use, but endangered and finally took her life.

Oc1dean answered...

You have hit the black hole of stroke rehab knowledge, doctors won't tell you anything because they themselves have no idea. Read Peter Levines book Stronger After Stroke and his blog There is lots that can be done if she is cognitively aware.

Rgk0114 answered...

I suffered a stoke in Feb, 08. I was 52 at the time and had a hemorrhagic stroke. I laid in my hotel room paralyzed for 7 hours before help arrived. From there, a 911 call sent me to a hospital where I stayed for 10 days before I was air ambulanced back home to CA. I spent 3 weeks at John Muir Hospital and they started me with physical therapy immediately. Today I still have some paralysis in my fingers on my right hand and spastic movement on my right side. I had to pass a driver's test again after 1-1/2 years. I have severe foot drop so walking is something I'm still working on. When I first came home, using a walker and going around my swimming pool 3 times was a chore. I graduated from the walker to a four prong cane and now use a regular cane. Right now I walk indoors without the cane, uneven surfaces are still difficult.
In my experience I can only say that it takes a very, very long time and when measuring success daily improvements are very miniscule. You just have to accept that it's going to take a long time and not give up trying. I read a book call "My Stroke of Life" by Dr Jill Bolte-Taylor and it was very enlightening. It's been 3 years for me and I'm not ready to quit. Right now my goal is to be back to normal in 2 more years. I don't know if I'll make it but I'm sure going to try. Bottom line is DON'T GIVE UP.

I also found the book by Peter Levine, "Stronger after Stroke" very good. It too gives me inspiration to keep working.

Aliceg answered...

My mom is 77 and had a stroke 2 years ago. She could not speak at all, was fed also through a tube in her stomack. My sister and I decided that she was just too young to just give up. We have been taking care of her at home and the simple love and care, the constant presence, the encouragement, the love. Believe it or not, she now eats on her own, she speaks her mind (slowly but now quite firmly), she is re-learning how to move her left side (the non affected side), has even started to show some movement on her right side (the affected side). The body needs time to heal and from my very small experience, the medical world gives up way too soon on stroke patients.

Braincaregiver answered...

In 2001, my 52 yr. old friend suffered a cerebral hemorrage (a stroke, a near-fatal brain aneurysm) She "died" several times and then she was comatose for about 2 months Needless to say, the doctors did not offer much hope for anything beyond a vegetable existence. Right now she's grocery shopping (she drove herself to the store). She's been doing the shopping for about six years now. It could be a miracle---or it could be some of the rehab ideas I invented out of desperation. Or it could be a combination of both. I wrote about it in Brain, Heal Thyself and Eureka! Memories and Motivations. I'm not selling books here--many libraries carry them. Check it out--they might give you some ideas on how to proceed with your sister. I''ll say a prayer you find your way. Praying helps.