Every year, stroke affects 15 million people worldwide, making it one of the world’s most common health issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); on average, someone suffers from stroke every 40 seconds in the United States.
Stroke is often associated with aging, and for good reason––nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people older than 65 and each decade after the age of 55, a person’s risk of suffering a stroke compounds by more than doubling, per the Internet Stroke Center.
The baby boomer generation is America’s largest and its members, born between 1946 and 1964, are currently aged 55 to 73. That means that all of the members of America’s largest generation are now in the window of compounding stroke risk.
These demographic realities will have several significant implications on the healthcare industry, the most obvious of which is a sustained high volume of stroke patients. It will also create a high demand for physical therapy––both immediately after the initial incident and for extended periods thereafter––as roughly one-third of stroke victims are left disabled and will require therapy to regain lost mobility or function. Knowing that expanding rehabilitation needs are coming, the private physical therapy industry, inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs), skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), and outpatient rehabilitation facilities (ORFs) in particular, must prepare by optimizing not only patient outcomes but also clinical performance to meet evolving payment models.
Demand for physical therapy
Across the world, there are 5 million new stroke survivors every year who require physical therapy. The effects of each person’s stroke are largely up to chance, and depend on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much tissue is affected, according to the American Stroke Association.
If the stroke occurs in the left side of the brain, it can result in paralysis on the right side of the body and vice versa. Understandably, this paralysis can make it more difficult for stroke victims to perform seemingly basic tasks, like feeding themselves, walking around their homes, or getting dressed. Independent living can become difficult or even unmanageable.