When your loved one has a stroke, your first thought is often about their immediate medical need. Emergency care is essential. Thankfully, nearly 85% of all stroke patients recover. Their recovery, however, is varied: around 10% of patients require specialized nursing care, while others fluctuate from needing some additional help to a full recovery.
Additionally, recovery can take weeks or it may take years, with little ability to predict how things will go. With over 4 million Americans living with the aftermath of a stroke, it is the leading cause of disability in adults.
Since so much uncertainty surrounds stroke recovery, everyone’s rehabilitation journey is different. Still, here are a few things you may encounter while a loved one is recovering from a stroke.
Every stroke patient will require some type of physical rehabilitation after the event. Rehabilitation may be at an inpatient facility where your loved one will be required to stay, or it could be an outpatient service – or even in your loved one’s own home.
After a stroke, many patients have trouble walking, dressing, or feeding themselves. Physical therapy and occupational therapy may help them regain independence regarding these tasks. Some patients can also have trouble speaking or swallowing. A stroke can affect the movement of the muscles in the mouth and throat, making communication difficult. Cognitive functions may also be damaged, making it hard for your loved one to find the correct words, or even string words together into sentences. Speech therapy is often needed in this case.
If your loved one will be living at their home or your home during recovery, you should ensure the space is appropriate for their needs. Rugs, slippery floors, narrow doorways, and plentiful stairs may make the terrain challenging for someone with physical complications due to stroke. Falls after a stroke are common, and may require emergency medical care. These can be partially prevented by making the area safer for someone with mobility issues.
Partially as a result of physical challenges, your loved one might experience social isolation and become frustrated – even depressed. This may be especially true for younger stroke patients, active seniors, or those who live alone. Many stroke patients lose the ability to drive, at least for the time being, which is nearly always an emotional challenge for those who lose their independence. Friends and loved ones may also find it difficult to communicate with the person who has had a stroke or feel uncomfortable dealing with realities and challenges of stroke recovery.
If your loved one is recovering at home an adult day care center can provide activities and socialization in a safe, supportive environment. If outpatient services are used, your loved one’s service providers or doctors may be able to provide suggestions – there may even be an adult center located at or near the medical facility being used. If your loved one receives in-home therapies or care, your doctor or service provider can also recommend options and even professional transportation to a center.
When your loved one is recovering from a stroke, frustration is expected due to the nature of physical recovery. That many people don’t realize is that stroke can affect cognitive function as well. In addition to feeling helpless because of the effect a stroke has on muscles and joints, a recovering patient may also have difficulty controlling their emotions. This can lead to anxiety, anger, and additional frustration.
In addition to speech therapy, which can help your loved one regain effective communication skills, cognitive therapy can help them learn to regulate emotional outbursts and other symptoms. If you suspect your loved one is experiencing depression, you discuss your concerns with their primary physician so mental health services can be coordinated.
Preventing Strokes in the Future
our loved one’s medical team will inevitably recommend lifestyle changes and improvements to help prevent future strokes, as well as make recovery easier. Nearly 15% of stroke patients experience a second stroke, often within a year of having the first one. Other factors that can lead to stroke include other medical conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. These conditions should be monitored and controlled to best help prevent them from leading to an additional stroke. Depending on your loved one’s other factors, a doctor may recommend medications, such as blood thinners, to help prevent blood clots from forming, as well. A dietitian may work with you to help create a healthy menu that may help prevent stroke in the future.
Spending on your loved one’s personality and cognitive effects of the stroke, it may be difficult for them to comply with doctor recommendations when it comes to medication or diet. Friends, family, and caregivers will all need to be informed of the procedures and willing to help maintain the new lifestyle to help prevent a second stroke.
Take Care of Yourself, too
Post-stroke recovery can be a long and frustrating process, both for your loved one who is recovering and for all the people involved in both physical and emotional support. Many family members who are the primary caregivers of people recovering from stroke suffer from their own medical complications, including depression and stress-related symptoms. Learn to recognize signs of caregiver burnout. If you need help, turn to an in-home caregiving service you can trust, like Westchester Family Care. Contact us to learn how our family can care for your family.