Recovery from a Stroke

In our earlier article, we discussed the various identifiable symptoms of a stroke and the risk factors associated with stroke. In today’s article we would be talking about recovery from stroke.

Strokes are one of the major causes of death and disability in seniors. Recovery varies, depending on the extent of brain injury and length of time before treatment. 

Recovery from stroke is a lifelong process. Recovery can start with formal rehabilitation and that can help restore independence by improving physical, mental and emotional functions. To improve the quality of life after stroke, National Stroke Association advises that there should be adequate knowledge about stroke and recovery.

There are more than 7 million people in the United States who have survived a stroke or brain attack and are living with the after effects. The lives of the people who are living with a stroke survivor and caring for them are also altered. The very nature of a stroke is that it is unexpected and no one is ever prepared for it. Stroke survivors and their families have to find workable solutions for all situations resulting due to stroke. They have to be patient and creative in approaching all problems.

The Recovery Process

Stroke can have a physical, cognitive and emotional impact on the person suffering from it. However, there are things which can reduce the post-stroke impact. Each patient experiences stroke differently and its effects vary depending on the type of stroke and the areas of the brain that are damaged. Understanding the nature of the effects of the stroke and what can be done about them is the first step to recovery.

Stroke may cause temporary damage to the brain cells and may resume functioning. In some cases the brain can reorganise its own functioning. Sometimes a part of the region may take over for a region damaged by stroke. Sometimes stroke survivors experience unanticipated recoveries. Some facts about stroke recovery are as follows:

  • 10% of stroke survivors recover almost completely
  • About 25% have minor impairments
  • 40% stroke patients have moderate to severe impairments and require special care
  • 10% of these stroke patients require care in a nursing home or other long term care facility
  • 15% patients die shortly after the stroke

Rehabilitation after stroke

Rehabilitation can start soon after the stroke in the hospital. For patients who are stable, rehabilitation may start as soon as two days after the stroke has occurred and this can be continued after discharge from the hospital. Various rehabilitation options are available within the hospital, at home or in a long term care facility. The purpose of rehabilitation is to improve function so that the stroke survivor can become independent again. Rehabilitation should be done in a manner such that the stroke survivor is motivated to relearn the basic skills which may have been affected due to stroke. These skills include eating, walking, dressing, etc.

Whether a stroke patient can go back home depends on the following factors:

  • The capability of the stroke affected person to take care of oneself
  • The availability of help/ assistance at home
  • The safety of the home

Care at home

The environment at home has to be made safe and all necessary precautions have to be taken so that falls can be avoided. The bathroom should be easily accessible. Items such as rugs that may cause a fall should be removed.

Family counselling should be undertaken to understand the requirements of the stroke patient and what changes need to be made to make home care a viable and safe option for recovery.

In-home care, nurses or aides, volunteer services, adult protective services and other community services may be helpful in attending to the needs and in rehabilitation process of the stroke patient 

Legal advice such as advance directives, power of attorney and other legal actions may be needed and would make it easier to make decisions about care.

Communicating

After a stroke, a condition called aphasia is commonly seen where the patient may have problems finding a word or may not be able to speak more than one phrase or word at a time. In some cases, the patient is unable to speak at all.

Even though people may be able to put many words together after having a stroke, it could be incoherent. Patients may not know what they are saying and it may not be understandable for others. This may cause frustration in them. Sometimes it may even take them even more than 2 years to recover and in many cases they may not be able to recover fully.

One of the consequences of a stroke is that it can damage the muscles that help one speak. As a result, these muscles may not move in the correct and controlled manner when one tries to speak.

There could be a need to engage a speech and language therapist who can work with the stroke patient along with the family or caregivers and make them learn new ways to communicate.

Want more information, please see our additional posts as part of our month-long series dedicated to information regarding Strokes, diagnoses, treatment, prevention and care.