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Occupational Therapy Improves Independence in Stroke Survivors

pational therapy for up to six months were compared to patients who received no or routine post-stroke therapy.

Researchers discovered that stroke survivors who received occupational therapy were significantly more independent in feeding, dressing, bathing, toileting and moving around, compared to patients who received routine or no rehabilitative care after stroke.

The positive effects of occupational therapy on self-care skills were unsurprising, according to Legg.

"It’s like learning to play the piano. If you want to improve on a particular piece of music, you must practice; if you want to improve with a particular daily activity, you must practice that activity," she said.

Patients undergoing occupational therapy also had a significantly lower risk of death or deterioration in their ability to perform personal care tasks, compared to those who did not undergo occupational therapy.

The authors do caution that these benefits may not be generalizable to some stroke patients. For example, the authors excluded studies that evaluated patients with communication difficulties. “However, from a practical point of view there is no sound reason to suspect that these people may not also benefit,” Legg said.

But Marianne Mortera, Ph.D., an editor with the American Occupational Therapy Association, suggested that this exclusion could be misleading. "Excluding those people is creating such an artificial situation. You’re leaving out a huge population of people we treat," she said.

"When you treat someone with stroke, you have so many problems to deal with, including motor, cognitive and sensory issues," Mortera said. "There’s also the context of the person’s roles. Are they a mother, a worker or a child at school? We design our treatment approaches around each and every one of those roles, not just self-care issues," said Mortera, an assistant professor of clinical occupational therapy at Colum
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