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The Importance of Cognitive Rehab After Stroke


Cognitive dysfunction is a frequent symptom after having a stroke. Difficulties with speech, memory, motor control and attention are just some of the changes that significantly affect a patient’s quality of life. However, having post-stroke cognitive impairment treatment can overcome many of these difficulties that help the patient restore cognitive functions.


Cognitive changes and difficulties after a stroke

When a stroke occurs, the blood flow to the brain is obstructed or a brain blood vessel ruptures. This causes damage to the brain cells and brain tissue. The functions that are controlled by the area of the brain where the stroke occurred are impaired or lost.

The severity of the stroke and how quickly the patient receives treatment determines the degree of injury and disability. Because the brain controls body functions, a stroke can have far-reaching effects that result in a number of conditions.

Physical Effects

Spasticity is one side effect that occurs because of involuntary muscle contractions in the limbs. This results in tightness and stiffness because muscles cannot complete a full range of motion and the tendons and soft tissue become constricted. When left untreated, the muscles can permanently freeze in a painful position making basic activities impossible.

Difficulty with fine motor skills can also transpire where patients are unable to control and coordinate smaller muscles. Functions such as grasping, holding, reaching, and maintaining become challenging. Physical fatigue, muscle weakness and sensation, and difficulty in swallowing are all affected that makes daily living problematic.

Communication Problems

The ability to communicate is altered and patients struggle to understand and process language. Speech, reading, and writing are also affected, and this leads to decreased attention, an inability to control inappropriate behavior, and social isolation.

Patients cannot form words or complete sentences. They speak slowly and can sometimes only make sounds. Often, they confuse words and speech becomes jumbled and nonsensical, or they will get stuck on one word which is repeated over and over.

Behavioral Changes

Behavioral and emotional changes are common side effects. Patients feel irritable, frustrated, forgetful, and confused. Being unable to process feelings leaves patients feeling angry, depressed, and anxious.

An overwhelming sense of sadness, hopelessness, lack of interest, and the inability to feel pleasure along with changes in sleeping and eating culminate in decreased self-esteem and mood disorders. A stroke can prevent patients from having emotional perception and understanding behavioral responses.

Memory and Thinking

A stroke can affect a patient’s normal thought processes, the ability to remember the smallest things, as well as their perception and judgement. When cognitive processes are impaired, patients can involuntarily put themselves in unsafe situations such as wandering off, getting lost in familiar surroundings, or using appliances at home. This can lead to being disoriented and not knowing where they are or who they are with.

Short-term memory, concentration, planning, and problem-solving are compromised. Patients make irrational decisions, they do things in an illogical order, and have difficulty recognizing shapes and objects.

What is post-stroke cognitive rehabilitation?

The effects after a stroke can be extremely stressful on the patient and on the family and caregivers. However, going for cognitive rehab after a stroke can help achieve productive results so the patient can lead a good quality of life.

Cognitive skills refer to mental abilities and mental processing which are altered after a stroke. Cognitive rehab is a goal-oriented therapy program that focuses on improving the functioning and awareness of communication, self-care, physical movement, emotional perception, and memory. It includes training to help with daily living activities such as managing money, going to the grocery store, bathing, and cooking.

Rehabilitation includes both medical and therapeutic techniques that work towards restoring cognitive functions and teaching strategies to better cope with cognitive deficits.

What changes, difficulties, and impairments are treated through quality cognitive rehab?

Cognitive rehabilitation programs are developed according to every patient’s needs, which also focuses on tasks and performance that are specifically important for the patient.

By improving a range of cognitive functions, patients can relearn how to engage with others and use practical skills. It helps with working towards having a more meaningful life and being able to overcome obstacles.

Executive Functions

These are complex cognitive functions that involve regulating behavior, impulse control, planning, and decision-making. The front of the brain is connected to other areas that rely heavily on these executive cognitive functions. Different therapy strategies focus on teaching the patient to think before acting, being able to be cognitively flexible, and how to understand the consequences of decisions.

Verbal, Visual, and Spatial Skills

Humans process information through words, images, and spatial association in both hemispheres of the brain. Through digital-aided cognitive exercises work to improve visual and verbal memory skills that help improve impairments. Therapy targets the recovery in recognition, identifying objects, shapes, and people, and improving retention of memory and speech.


Visual attention is important for skills like cooking and driving. Stroke patients struggle to concentrate and are easily sidetracked. This can also lead to feeling overwhelmed when having to focus and filter out irrelevant details. Cognitive rehab places emphasis on when to ignore distractions, and how to refine listening and visual skills.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is another part of cognitive rehab that works on basic motor skills and being able to transition between movements. It helps with normal activities such as going to the toilet, standing, swallowing, writing, reading, and walking. Therapy also helps to prevent muscle atrophy and increase exercise levels. It has positive effects on emotions and overall well-being.

The role and importance of post-stroke cognitive therapy

Rehabilitation after a stroke is important not only to work on reducing the side effects and improve cognitive abilities but also to prevent new conditions from developing. This can include paralysis, dementia, and permanent loss of body functions.

Cognitive therapy is a repetitive process that is customized and directed specifically at the individual’s condition. Therapy practices the skills that are impaired after a stroke. It helps to rewire the circuits of the brain that are damaged to restore function. Rehab also teaches additional coping strategies for patients to compensate for other disabilities.

How to find a good rehab center for stroke rehabilitation?

Depending on the patient’s condition after the stroke will determine the type of rehab facility required. A good rehab center will offer services by specialist medical professionals, such as doctors, therapists, and psychologists.

Choosing the right rehab center will impact the success of therapy. An accredited rehab adheres to strict standards and offers the best level of care for patients. This gives family members peace of mind knowing their loved one will receive the proper treatment and respect they deserve while going through recovery.