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Jan Davis shares her latest treatment and teaching tips with resources for therapists, faculty and students. 

Great Assessment Tools for Stroke Rehabilitation

Jan Davis

How often do you use standardized assessment tools? If therapists are required to in order to measure patient outcomes, then why aren't they used more often? What's your reason? Takes too much time? Don't know which to use, how to score it or where to find it? Here are 4 sites that answer all of these questions and more!

Most of the assessment tools listed are free and link directly to a pdf of the tool. Some include videos to show how to score the tool. You can find all of the assessment tools and the evidence needed for creating your plan of intervention in stroke rehabilitation. They're fantastic resources for students as well as therapists! 

Stroke Engine is my #1 choice for therapists looking for assessment tools specific to stroke rehabilitation. I love how this site is organized and it's easy to scan and find the exact tool you need from the 90+ assessment tools. Just select a category and all of the tools you need are listed!

Each tool includes: 
        • Purpose of the Measure
        • In-depth Review
        • Summary Table
        • Psychometric Properties
        • See the Measure also includes a section on interventions in stroke rehabilitation. The information included is derived from quality articles, websites and systematic reviews. All have been reviewed using a systematic process.

Rehabilitation Measures Database

If you would like additional standardized tools, for diagnoses other than stroke, go to RIC's Rehabilitation Measures Database and choose from over 300 standardized tools! 

The Internet Stroke Center

Another resource for Stroke Assessment Scales, it includes more than 30 tools, including those used by physicians.

Evidence-Based Review of Stroke Rehabilitation (EBRSR)

The Evidence-Based Review of Stroke Rehabilitation is the best for finding evidence to support your choice of intervention. The EBRSR now includes in-depth reviews of well over 2000 studies including 1,431 randomized controlled trials. Parts of the EBRSR have been translated into a number of languages.

New Hope for Dementia & Their Families

Jan Davis

If you work with clients exhibiting some of the ‘difficult’ behaviors of Alzheimer’s or dementia, this video is a must see!

Grace O'Sullivan, named New Zealand Occupational Therapist of the Year, provides her 'keys' for getting patients with dementia off of anti-psychotic drugs with an extremely successful approach. Watch the entire video for evidence, tips, family and interviews with physicians. FANTASTIC!

Here are some other great videos (all free) that are great to share with other therapists, families and caregivers dealing with the challenges of dementia. The HBO special on Alzheimer’s is extremely well done — I highly recommend it!

Grab & Go: Treatment Ideas for Busy Therapists

Jan Davis

Tired of doing the same therapy day after day? Need some new ideas that are more client-centered, easy to 'grab & use' in any setting, and don't break the bank?

It's easy to see why activities such as stacking cones, doing puzzles or playing games are commonly used in clinics. They are easily available, have multiple ways to be incorporated into therapy, and they aren't 'bad' therapy or 'wrong' for the patient. In fact, I used to use them a lot.

But are they the best choice for our patients? They certainly can be used to help prepare a patient for movement, but they don't provide the essential information needed to plan and carry out functional tasks required in daily life. Functional therapeutic activities, taken from real life, help patients bridge the gap between skills acquired in therapy and skills needed for home.

I always have my patient pour their own water from the pitcher into the cup. I have been doing this ever since I took your course four or five years ago!

Research supports the use of Enriched Environments (more on that in another post), but today's limited budgets and nearly impossible productivity standards, leave therapists with little time to be creative.

So I've put together some examples that might help give you some inspiration to transition from the 'old' activities used in your clinic to some 'new' ideas. These therapeutic activities are not expensive, easy to have on a shelf ready to 'Grab and Go' and are just a few ideas that may help you if you are looking for new ideas for treatment.


Keep a jewelry box on the shelf of old costume jewelry. Older patients respond to familiar objects from their past. Great for fine motor, cognitive skills (sorting and matching) and figure ground skills.


A box of old tools are familiar to men and can also be used for sorting (for electrical, plumbing or other tasks), fine or gross motor and even figure ground. Having tools on hand can make it easier to be creative and more client-centered in any setting.


Bread machines are a good replacement for those of you without a kitchen at your facility. And the aroma of fresh made bread will guide your patients right to therapy!


Shining shoes is a great activity for older men. Keep a bag or box with a can of shoe polish, a brush and a rag on the shelf. They can work in sitting or standing, unilateral or bilateral, in their room or in the gym. Great for high level and low level patients.


If you have a small juicer, a cutting board and a knife - all you'll need is an orange or two and this activity has the extra reward of fresh juice! Tip: For safety put sharp knives in the weak hand and guide with your hand over theirs. 


Gardening is an activity that all ages enjoy. Most SNFs and rehab centers have an outdoor area that can be used for activities encouraging standing balance and gait. Keep a pair of snippers, gloves and hand tools ready and give it a try!

Budget Solutions

On a limited budget? I've had success asking for donations from stores, asking the hospital auxiliary or residence council for help and purchasing items from the dollar store. I've even had florists donate flowers that were past their prime!