Caring Web

Learning Activities to Increase Dexterity,
Function, and Memory

Following a stroke, some individuals have a decrease in dexterity, function, and memory.

* The inability to walk well, button shirts, and open jars or cans are examples of deficits in dexterity and function. Problems in these areas make completing simple every day tasks that usually were taken for granted before the stroke more difficult. The most common physical effect of stroke is muscle weakness and having less control of an arm or leg. Stroke survivors often work with their therapists to restore strength and control through exercise programs.

* Combine these with the inability to remember thoughts, such as tasks and daily routines [memory loss], life can become difficult.

What You Can Do?exercise

The following are some activities and suggestions to help increase dexterity, function, and memory.

Dexterity and Function:
Physical and occupational therapists use exercises and treatments during hospitalization to help increase dexterity and function. These exercises can be done at home also. PLEASE CONTACT YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER [doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant] BEFORE STARTING ANY EXERCISE PROGRAM.

Active exercises are ones that can be performed independently and involve moving an extremity through its normal motion without pain.

An example of active exercise is raising your arm slowly above your head and holding it there for ten seconds and then, bringing it back down to your lap.

Active exercises can be done not only with the arms but also with legs, neck, shoulder, elbows and wrists by moving the selected area. For example raising your leg off the bed for a count of ten or moving your wrist in an up and down, circular fashion.

Passive exercises can also be done and involve moving the limb [arm and/or leg] to the point of discomfort and holding it there for 10 seconds. These exercises usually involve stretching the affected limb with the non-affected limb or by someone else.

Another way to do passive exercises is to stand next to a wall and push your arm against the wall for ten seconds.

Exercises for the hands, elbows, and wrists can be done in similar ways.

-For example, use a table to lay your arm on and push against the table and hold it there for a count of ten. The same can be repeated with the hand.
-Make a fist slowly to also exercise the hand to increase dexterity and function.
-Squeezing a foam ball is also a good way to exercise the hand and wrist.
-Placing pennies, jellybeans, or toothpicks in a jar or can will help increase integrity of the hand, wrist, and fingers.

These types of passive exercise are easy and quick ways to help the affected limb and can be performed by the survivor of stroke alone or with the help of the caregiver. Many of these exercises can be done while riding in the car, sitting in a chair, or even while watching television.


There are several ways that caregivers can assist the person with stroke with remembering - for example, ideas, thoughts, and tasks-Make a checklist of things that need to be done.
memory-Write things down on paper, memo pads, or post it notes.
-Keep a calendar handy to write reminders on.
-Leave items to be used later or remembered in a prominent place.
-Use clocks and alarms when wanting to remember tasks or activities.
-Ask friends and family for reminders regarding things that need to be done.
-Keep a fixed routine for tasks and activities during the day. This will help organize activities and keep things in place.
-Get enough sleep, as this will aid the ability to remember.
-Stay calm and avoid stressful situations.
-Label items that are difficult to remember.
-Use association with items to help remember.
-Dexterity, function, and memory can be altered after a stroke. Through use of exercises and simple activities, dexterity, function, and memory may be increased, helping overall ability to function and improving self-esteem..

Additional Information:

The following are some web sites to provide you with more information about function and memory.

Fitness Goals: Virtual Hospital

Life after Stroke: National Stroke Association

Recovery after Stroke, Thinking and Cognition: National Stroke Association


Fenstermacher, K., & Hudson, B. (2000). Practice guidelines for family nurse practitioners. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Games for seniors can improve quality of life. (2011). Retrieved from

Mosby. (1998). Mosby's medical, nursing, and allied health dictionary (5th ed.). St. Louis: Mosby.

National Stroke Association. (2009). Hope: The stroke recovery guide. Retrieved from

Stroke rehab exercises. (2010). Retrieved from

Tomlinson, C. (2011). Occupational therapy techniques for stroke patients. Retrieved from

Uphold, C., & Graham, M. (1998). Clinical guidelines in family practice (3rd ed.). Gainesville, FL: Barmarrae Books.

Developed in 2002 by Michael Finn, BSN, RN at  the University of Toledo for Caring~Web©.

Revised: 2010, 2012


Last Updated: 6/27/22