May is National Stroke Awareness Month, so we’re taking the opportunity to dive deeper into the subject. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 795,000 people in the US have a stroke each year. Stroke recovery looks different for every survivor, but there are certain things you should know if you or a loved one have had a stroke.
Staying Informed is Crucial
Whether you are a stroke survivor or the caregiver of someone who has had a stroke, you need to be well-informed by the healthcare team. Keep a record of all prescribed medications and any potential side effects. And if you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask them even if you think it sounds silly.
Stroke Recovery Takes Time
An important part of stroke recovery is setting and managing realistic expectations. Every patient is different, so there is not a set timeline for recovery. Gains may be made slowly over time or they may happen quickly. Just be sure to keep consulting the healthcare team throughout recovery and discuss any concerns you have.
There Are Different Types of Therapies to Consider
Depending on the severity of the stroke and the type of impairments the stroke survivor has afterward, different kinds of therapy might be needed. These include:
- Speech therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Motor-skill exercises
- Range-of-motion therapy
- Constraint-induced therapy
- Mobility training
- Technology-assisted physical activities
- Psychological evaluation & treatment
- Experimental therapies
- Noninvasive brain stimulation
- Alternative medicine
- Biological therapies
- Stem cell therapy (only done in clinical trials)
You Can Reduce the Risk of Another Stroke
Stroke survivors are at a high risk of having another stroke. You can reduce the risk of another stroke by making sure the patient eats a healthy diet, gets exercise, and maintains a healthy weight. It’s crucial that they take all prescribed medications as instructed, participate in therapy, and sees their healthcare provider regularly.
And if you aren’t familiar with the signs of stroke already, become familiar so you can act quickly if another stroke occurs. Remember, think FAST:
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness
- Speech difficulty
- Time to call 911
Monitor Any Falls
People who suffer from strokes often fall, however you shouldn’t just shrug this off as a part of stroke recovery. Serious falls can cause injury and frequent falls may be a sign of decline. If a fall results in severe pain, bleeding or bruising, you should go to the emergency room for treatment. If the patient has more than two minor falls in a six month period, talk to their physical therapist and doctor.
Stay Alert for Emotional Changes
Changes in attitude or behavior may be a sign you need to make adjustments to your stroke recovery plan. Getting advice from the patient’s care team can help with managing emotional turmoil. And staying alert can help prevent post-stroke depression, which can get in the way of recovery. According to the American Stroke Association, as many as 30 – 50% of stroke survivors experience depression post-stroke. Talk to the survivor’s care providers about forming an action plan to prevent post-stroke depression.
Measuring Progress Helps
Keeping track of how much progress someone is making during stroke recovery is important for a number of reasons. Even small gains should be recorded because the rate of improvement can dictate how much therapy a patient needs. Progress should be measured so that the Functional Independence Measure Score (FIMS) can be adjusted. This score includes things like mobility and communication skills and should improve weekly in most stroke survivors.
Needs May Change With Time
Depending on the improvements or declines during stroke recovery, services may need to be adjusted. In fact, Medicare coverage for certain rehabilitation services changes based on a stroke survivor’s physical function. If there is any change in function, then their eligibility for certain therapies.
Ask for Help When You Need It
Caring for someone recovering from a stroke can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Make sure you know where to get help, and then make sure you actually reach out when you need to. This includes help with getting the care you or your loved one needs or just getting support for yourself. Ask your healthcare provider for help if you are being denied services. Find support stroke caregiver support groups and other community resources to help you take care of yourself.
At Regional Neurological Associates in New York, we are experts at managing a range of neurologic conditions including strokes and neuromuscular disorders. If you have questions or concerns about your neurological health, call us at (718) 515-4347 to make an appointment.