Life after a stroke can be challenging, but there is hope for a full recovery. Recovery from a stroke can mean relearning basic skills and managing daily activities.
It means coping with the physical, emotional, and social changes that come with a stroke.
Our physicians at CHRISTUS Health provide compassionate care for stroke survivors. The focus of this care should be on supporting the patient in achieving their desired quality of life and helping them to adjust to their new reality.
Some complications a person can have after a stroke include:
- Paralysis in the arms or legs
- Difficulty speaking
- Understanding speech
- Cognitive difficulties such as confusion and memory problems
- Difficulty swallowing
- Vision changes
Common Emotional Changes
Common emotional changes after a stroke include fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, and depression. People who have had strokes may also experience difficulty controlling their emotions. They will also have difficulty expressing themselves verbally.
Changes in memory and concentration are also common after a stroke. Some survivors may become more easily upset or confused after recovering from a stroke.
Other possible changes may include difficulty controlling impulsive behaviors and sleep disturbances.
Stroke survivors may also experience changes in confidence and self-esteem. This can affect their overall quality of life.
Common Communication and Cognitive Changes
Common communication and cognitive changes after a stroke include:
- Difficulty with language skills, such as producing speech
- Understanding language
- Speaking clearly
- Difficulty reading and writing
- Difficulty in organizing thoughts
- Concentration problems
- Memory problems
- Difficulty completing tasks or solving problems
Common Physical Changes
Physical changes are different from each other based on the severity of the stroke. Common physical changes after a stroke can include:
- Weakness or paralysis of the face, arm, and/or leg on one side of the body (Hemiplegia)
- Difficulty speaking or understanding language (Aphasia)
- Impaired vision in one eye
- Difficulty walking or balancing
- Loss of coordination
Some people may experience difficulty swallowing (Dysphagia), incontinence, fatigue, and pain.
Many individuals can make meaningful recoveries and regain some or all of their physical abilities.
Dieting After a Stroke
After suffering from a stroke, it is important to follow a balanced diet. This includes nutrient-dense foods such as lean proteins, fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
A person should also limit or avoid processed foods and unhealthy fats.
Fiber helps reduce cholesterol levels and keeps the digestive system healthy. Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.
Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day can help maintain a healthy weight. This also helps reduce cholesterol levels.
Drinking plenty of water is essential for good health after a stroke. Dehydration can worsen symptoms such as fatigue and dizziness, increasing the risk of falls.
Exercising After a Stroke
Exercise helps improve circulation and increase muscle strength and coordination. It reduces the risk of secondary health issues such as depression and heart disease.
Regular exercise like walking, stretching, cycling, swimming, and yoga are recommended for those who have experienced a stroke. Consult a doctor or physical therapist to determine the best exercise program for a person’s needs and limitations.
With consistency, purposeful exercise can help improve mobility, balance, flexibility, and confidence after a stroke. Regular exercise can also help reduce the risk of another stroke.
Preventing Future Stroke
Several steps can be taken to reduce the risk of stroke and prevent future strokes.
It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise. People should also avoid smoking because it increases the risk of stroke significantly.
Controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol levels is essential for reducing the chances of another stroke.
See your doctor regularly for check-ups and to manage any existing health conditions that could lead to a stroke.
Stroke rehabilitation is a process aimed at helping people who have had a stroke regain their strength, mobility, and independence. It is a recommended option for those living post-stroke.
Inpatient therapy for stroke can be a critical part of recovery. This type of therapy typically focuses on maximizing the patient’s functional, physical, and cognitive abilities and supporting them with mental health issues that may arise following the event. Inpatient care allows for around-the-clock monitoring of the patient’s progress and can include physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
Outpatient therapy for stroke is for physical, occupational, and speech therapies that individuals may receive once they have left the hospital or a rehabilitation center. This type of therapy is often indicated for continued recovery and long-term management of stroke-related symptoms.
Rehabilitation begins with evaluating the patient’s abilities to determine areas of difficulty. This helps the healthcare team develop an individualized plan determining which type of rehabilitation is needed.
Physical Therapy: Physical therapists help stroke survivors rebuild their motor functions and relearn skills such as walking or self-care activities. A doctor of physical therapy helps with exercises to improve strength, range of motion, balance, coordination, and mobility.
Physiotherapists: This therapy works to help people regain lost strength and abilities. It also helps improve cardiovascular endurance, balance, and coordination. Functional mobility teaches daily activities such as walking, dressing, bathing, and self-care. Physiotherapists are skilled at developing individualized, goal-oriented rehabilitation plans to help individuals reach their high potential.
Occupational Therapy: This helps stroke survivors regain as much function and independence as possible in their everyday activities. Occupational Therapists help people re-learn new skills or create new skills.
Speech Therapy: This helps people regain the ability to speak, understand, and communicate. Speech therapists help people with speech deficits caused by stroke by providing strategies to improve their speaking capabilities. Language intervention courses help people better understand and process others’ words.
Cognitive Rehabilitation: This is a collaborative approach to helping individuals recover cognitive deficits that arise after a stroke. Cognitive therapy focuses on enhancing skills such as making decisions, problem-solving, and communication.
Psychological Counseling: This helps individuals cope with the emotional, social, and cognitive changes that can occur after a stroke. This therapy helps individuals understand how their emotions and negative thoughts can affect their ability to recover from a stroke.
Caring for a Loved One Who is Recovering from a Stroke
Caring for a family member recovering from a stroke is vitally important. Stroke survivors often face long-term recovery periods, requiring support and understanding during this difficult time.
Caring for someone after they have had a stroke can make recovery easier.
“Family member involvement is critical for the best results,” Constantine said.
Providing comfort, support, and caring for a loved one recovering from a stroke can help prevent further strokes.
The road to recovery post-stroke can be long and challenging. Although, with support and understanding, you can help them maintain quality of life during their recovery process. Here is what to know about caring for a loved one recovering from a stroke.
- Understand their needs and limitations: Ask your loved one what they need. Be aware of the limitations they may have from the stroke. This can be several of the complications listed above.
- Set realistic goals and expectations: Work with a doctor or physical therapist and set realistic and achievable goals. This will help keep your loved one motivated and encouraged to work toward recovery.
- Offer emotional support: A stroke can be a traumatic event, and your loved one needs emotional support during recovery. Talk to them often, listen to their worries, and encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings. Be available to provide comfort.
- Find ways to make life easier: Depending on their needs, you may need to make changes around the house. Find ways to help your loved one maintain independence while recovering from a stroke.
- Stay involved in their care: Follow your loved one’s doctor’s orders. Keep track of their medications and treatments and attend medical appointments if possible. It is important to stay informed about their health and be proactive about their needs.
- Support Groups: This allows a person to connect with other people who are also affected by strokes. Support groups provide a safe environment where individuals can discuss their experiences. They can also learn new strategies for managing symptoms from other stroke survivors.
If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke, do not walk the road to recovery alone. CHRISTUS Health offers stroke rehabilitation services to help the patient and caregiver maximize the benefits of therapy and restore as much independence as possible. Find a rehabilitation center near you.