Having a stroke is a difficult ordeal – just ask any of the 800,000-plus Americans who suffers one each year. But “surviving” a stroke can involve work long past your ER visit and hospital stay. For many patients, additional rehabilitation is needed – for both physical and emotional support.
Life after stroke: What to expect
After suffering a stroke, patients may need to relearn how to complete once-simple everyday tasks and adjust aspects of their daily routines. Small things could become big hurdles. And that’s OK.
Recovering from a stroke can be understandably stressful, and not everyone is affected the same way. Stroke can affect people in minor to debilitating ways. But with the right therapy and support, every stroke survivor has the ability to improve their quality of life and regain as much independence as possible.
Some aspects of post-stroke life that may be affected are:
- Mobility. Walking, moving into and out of bed, self-propelling in a wheelchair, the ability to drive
- Maintenance tasks. Eating, bathing, getting dressed
- Speech. Word loss or inability to speak clearly are frustrating but not uncommon
Patients may also suffer social setbacks. Struggling with speech, cognitive tasks or memory can all affect your ability to easily and comfortably interact with others, even family and close friends. Some people may even experience minor or severe depression due to these sudden life changes.
Resources for stroke survivors
There are an abundance of specialized rehabilitative services, therapy programs and support groups available for stroke survivors. All share the same goal: to help stroke survivors make progress for the most successful recovery possible. This network includes:
- Physical therapists, who rehabilitate damaged muscular or motor skills
- Nurses, both on-site and visitation, depending on where rehab takes place
- Speech therapists, who work on restoring full communication and language
- Psychiatrists or psychologists, who can help patients process what they’ve been through
- Support groups, because feeling as though you’re not alone is a vital part of the healing process
Stroke recovery: Take it slow
Try not to compare your own progress with that of other stroke survivors. No two strokes are the same, so it’s OK to recover at different paces with different goals. But the key to minimizing the rehabilitation needed is to prevent as much damage as possible, and that begins with awareness and getting help immediately. Don’t forget to Act FAST (Face drooping, Arm Weakness, Slurred speech, Time To Call 9-1-1) at the first sign of trouble.
Life after stroke can return to normal, it just may be a “new normal.” But independence and acceptance will come. It just takes time.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Recovery is a slow road back.
- Change the scenery. Get out of the house, if at all possible.
- Speak up. Let friends and family know your needs.
- Keep at it. Remember, every day you work at recovery – with victories big and small – means you are improving.
- Work on communication: Props, gestures and cue cards are valuable tools. Being able to communicate effectively plays a vital role in patients’ mental states and general optimism.
Stroke support: Resources for caregivers
Helping a loved one with their stroke rehab also takes a toll on family and friends. Support groups are available for those who didn’t directly suffer a stroke themselves. Doctors should be able to provide additional reading materials and suggest services in your immediate area, while healthcare professionals can help navigate the insurance coverage process.