Goals of Hemiplegia Rehabilitation

Hemiplegia is the weakness of one side of the body. It is one of the possible outcomes of neurological conditions such as stroke, head injury, and cerebral palsy.

Hemiplegia can partially improve with rehabilitation. Goals for hemiplegia rehabilitation include improving measurable assessments of strength as well as building abilities like self-care.

Young woman assisting her grandmother walking
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Setting Your Hemiplegia Rehabilitation Goals

Because hemiplegia can affect the muscles of your face, arm, and leg on one side of your body, it can interfere with a variety of activities ranging from walking to shaving.

The goals of your rehabilitation plan are specific to your abilities. For example, if your face is weak, your rehabilitation plan may focus on swallowing, because choking while you eat can cause serious health problems, such as aspiration pneumonia. On the other hand, if you have leg weakness, your rehabilitation plan is more likely to focus on walking.

Your rehabilitation team may include a number of healthcare professionals, including a rehabilitation physician, physical and occupational therapists, rehabilitation nurses, and speech pathologists. Members of your team will work with you and your family to design a specific rehabilitation plan with clear goals based on your needs.

Improving Your Strength

Improving your strength involves a variety of measurable goals. Some of these are known as active strength, passive strength, and cosmesis.

  • Active strength: This is a measure of your ability to move, particularly against resistance. Improvement of your active strength in your leg may be measured as to how well you can stand up with or without assistance, while your active strength in your hand can be assessed by your hand grip.
  • Passive strength: This measures your ability to optimally position the parts of your body that are not actively moving for better overall function.
  • Cosmesis: This assesses your ability to position your body in a way that gives you the appearance of having physical control.

Increasing the strength and movement of the affected limbs is perhaps the most important goal of any rehabilitation plan. Any increase in strength, even if minor, has the potential to improve multiple goals delineated in the care plan.

For example, increasing hand strength can allow you to hold a toothbrush, spoon, or key, all of which can have a positive impact on your daily function and quality of life. It is also important to improve strength in the non-hemiplegic side, as this "good side" must be strengthened in order to compensate for the weakness of the hemiplegic one.

Improving Your Abilities

In addition to objective strength, rehabilitation may also include goals that are more complex. The following are some examples:

  • Independence: Reaching independence may be one of your goals if you have hemiparesis, especially if your handicap is mild.
  • Grooming: Depending on the severity of your hemiparesis, you might need to re-learn basic skills such as washing, cutting your fingernails, and getting dressed. Some grooming goals might include activities such as learning how to pass your arm through a coat sleeve, or how to put a glove on your hand. Other such tasks include putting on a pair of pants, socks, or shoes and taking them off, doing and undoing buttons, zipping and unzipping clothing, and using a comb.
  • Functional Goals: Functional goals include re-learning how to do things such as rolling over in bed, getting up and balancing your body in a steady standing position, and carrying objects from one place to another. As you get closer to reaching independence, you might also set goals for activities like using a key to open a door and dialing a phone number. If you enjoy reading, an important goal may be to learn a good way of holding a book.
  • Eating: Consideration must be given to learning how to pick up and use utensils, as feeding yourself is a key aspect of independence. If your ability to chew or swallow is impaired, you may also need dysphagia therapy.

A Word From Verywell

Some goals of hemiplegia rehabilitation are easier to measure, such as strength. Others may be more difficult to measure, such as grooming and feeding yourself.

Over time, you, along with your medical team and your family, will notice whether your abilities are improving and how well you are reaching the goals of your hemiplegia rehabilitation. You might need a different plan with higher goals after you experience some improvement, and you might eventually complete your rehabilitation if you attain adequate improvement.

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  1. Ashford S, Jackson D, Turner-Stokes L. Goal setting, using goal attainment scaling, as a method to identify patient selected items for measuring arm functionPhysiotherapy. 2015;101(1):88-94. doi:10.1016/j.physio.2014.04.001