LIFE AFTER A STROKE

Stroke changes life. Stroke affects differentindividuals in different ways. The disabilities experienced and the ability to recover depends on which side of the brain was affected (recovery takes time if stroke has affected the dominant side), which part of the brain was affected, how much of the brain was damaged, and the health of the patient before the stroke.

The most common impairments one might face include,

  • Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, which may result in trouble with walking, holding on to things, and doing other day-to-day activities. The side affected by the stroke will be opposite to the damaged side of the brain or in some cases there might be complete paralysis which renders the patient completely bed ridden.
  • Pain and stiffness in the joints, such as shoulder pain which will hinder lifting the arm above shoulder level.
  • Muscle stiffness and contracture.
  • Problems with sensation.
  • Problems with swallowing and eating.
  • Numbness, tingling, and pain in the affected arm or leg, or both in case of paralysis.
  • Balance issues.
  • Problems with coordination.
  • Bowel and urinary problems.
  • Speech and language problems.
  • Problems with vision.
  • Emotional problems.
  • Problems with memory and cognition.
  • Problems with perception.

Although the aftermath of stroke is scary, it is indeed a saving grace that the brain is an amazing organ that is capable of adapting to some degree and can take over working for the damaged part of the brain.

Much of the improvement in terms of walking and other motor functions is seen during the initial phase of recovery. Hence, it is very essential to start rehab as early as possible. Usually, the first session of rehab starts 24 to 48 hours after the stroke, while in the hospital itself, as soon as the patient stabilizes. The initial rehab sessions would mainly focus on the patient getting out of bed and sitting in a chair, which itself might be a challenge.

As the patient regains strength and function, the rehab will focus on relearning the lost skills, but the intensity of the initial rehab is dependent upon the extent of damage and varies from person to person.

When the patient is ready for more intense therapy, then the rehab is carried out either at home or at a rehab facility. The patients who have the greatest yearning to improve and who have the greatest support from family and loved ones are the most likely to benefit from rehab, irrespective of whether the rehab is happening at home or at a rehab facility.

The most important thing that a stroke survivor must remember, however, is that the road to recovery is very long and can be frustrating. So, problems like depression and anxiety can crop up along with other setbacks, like there might be great improvements at first but later one might lose what has been gained as well. Also speech and language therapies can be very slow and can be frustrating too. Rehab team will also address issues of frustration as well, and discussing these with the family and the team paves way to recovery.One must also take medications regularly and follow lifestyle changes as well to prevent another stroke.

Support groups for stroke may be helpful as well, as meeting similar victims help in approaching the problems with a more positive outlook and enable the family and the survivor to cope with the situation better.

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