Caregiver’s Corner: Life After Stroke

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In our memory care homes, most of our residents are plagued with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia, Parkinson’s, or strokes.  In many cases, more than one of the six leading causes of death in the US are present in the elderly, including heart disease, COPD, strokes and Alzheimer’s.

Because these conditions often accompany one another, it is not surprising that suggestions for reducing one’s propensity to suffer these diseases revolve around healthy living choices.

In order to raise awareness, World Stroke Day is being observed on October 29.  This year’s main campaign theme is Life After Stroke–the issues around it and how the stroke survivors and their families are coping with it.  After consulting with Morningstar’s Executive Director Hannah Franks, RN, MSN we’d like to offer the following expectations and discuss variations in recovery experiences.

Expectations After Having Suffered a Stroke

Lasting effects following a stroke vary by person, type (hemorrhagic vs ischemic), and severity.  Some effects could include, but are not limited to:

– facial drooping

– expressive or receptive aphasia (receptive-can’t understand what is being said but can speak thoughts; expressive- can understand but can’t speak thoughts)

– slurred speech

-decreased of loss of functioning in various limbs

-decreased or loss of sensation

-a need for long term medication to decrease further effects, maintain functioning, and decrease the chance of another stroke

Variations in Recovery Experiences

As is true in recovering from any health issue, human nature is to compare our progress to others and expect a similar experience.  However, there are many factors affecting one’s recovery, including age, health conditions prior to the incident, physical condition, and a host of unknown factors and risks.  Physicians understand that medicine is not an exact science and caution patients to expect variances as the recovery proceeds, but fear and the human condition causes us to have unrealistic expectations that we will receive exact prognoses.  

In general, rehabilitation can help with muscle control, and with increasing both physical and mental function.  Commonly, however, the effects are permanent to some degree.

What this means is that stroke victims often must “re-learn” how to live.  Examples include:

– a loss in sensation may result in burns from touching hot surfaces.

– loss of limb function may result in learning new ways to dress, cook, bathe, use the bathroom and groom oneself.

– if one has slurred speech/aphasia, speech therapy may be indicated in order to communicate so others can understand you and/or so you can understand others

– new medications may result in the need for increased monitoring (lab draws, physician visits, etc.), and may impact what can you can eat or not eat with the medications.

There can also be psychological impacts following a stroke, including:

– feeling a loss of control.

– embarrassment- of physical changes/looks, inability to function, etc.

– resentment of others 

– anger

– depression

– being excluded

– anxiety

Each physical and psychological condition may require a different recommendation for relief from the symptoms, and each physician, psychiatrist or psychologist may differ in his or her methods.  The above effects come in thousands of different combinations from person to person, so there truly is no one-size fits all expectation one can have for a partial recovery or a full recovery.

The lasting effects are likely to impact the stroke victim, family caregivers and friends.  It is vitally important to lean on one’s support system, find a support group, or talk regularly with others.  Consult your medical providers to obtain resources, and remember that others have empathy and love for all those involved.

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