Spread the word that May is National Stroke Awareness Month! The survivor of a stroke is at a higher risk of a second stroke so it can be important to recognize the signs. The quicker you are able to recognize that someone is having a stroke, the more likely that you will be able to save their life. Do you know how to spot the signs of a stroke? A stroke is treatable if you act F.A.S.T. This is the acronym that we memorize to remember the signs of a stroke. Try to recognize the following:
- F – Does one side of the FACE droop?
- A - Does the ARM drift downward?
- S – Does the SPEECH sound slurred or strained?
- T – There’s not a lot of TIME, so Call 911.
If you have a family member that is a stroke survivor, then you probably have quite a few questions about how a caregiver can help after a stroke. Their recovery may take months or even years, and it is important to plan for how you will manage your new role as a family caregiver. Remember that caregiving can be overwhelming regardless of the reason, but caring for a family member after a stroke presents its own set of challenges.
What To Expect When Your Loved One is Recovering from A Stroke
A stroke can be debilitating, and just like any other significant health problem the physical, mental, and emotional side effects are something that any caregiver should be prepared for. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are some common conditions that may occur for your loved one after a stroke:
- Weakness or Paralysis: This can be an issue for about 80% of stroke victims. While many people assume that an entire side of the body can be affected, there are many victims that just see reduced movement in a single arm or leg. The part of the brain that suffered the stroke is a major determining factor in the side effects.
- Complications with Balance and Coordination: The survivor of a stroke can struggle when trying to do the most common things such as sitting down, standing up, or walking. Even when the individual has sufficient muscle strength, their balance and coordination may prevent them from moving as quickly as they usually do.
- Unexplainable Pain or Numbness: A stroke victim can experience abnormal and sometimes unexplainable pain or numbness in different areas of their body. This becomes particularly problematic because a stroke survivor often experiences an inability to get comfortable or relax at times.
- Trouble With Other Body Functions: The survivor of a stroke can experience many issues such as trouble swallowing, bowel or urinary incontinence, and extreme fatigue. These issues in particular make rehabilitation sometimes challenging, but with patience there is always hope.
- Mental Health Symptoms: Cognitive complications such as memory problems, or Aphasia which affects written or spoken language, can significantly impact many stroke victims. Some survivors of stroke are not even able to fully grasp the extent of their symptoms and be unaware of their inability to complete tasks as they used to.
- Emotional Side Effects: Just like any disability, a victim of stroke can struggle with depression, loss of independence, anxiety, and mood swings or outbursts. Patience and empathy with plenty of support for both your loved one as well as yourself is imperative.
Recovery From A Stroke
The good news is that to a certain degree, the brain has the amazing ability to heal itself after a stroke. With the appropriate rehabilitation, a stroke survivor can learn how to use unaffected areas of their brain to overcome any deficiencies in their speech, cognitive, motor and sensory skills. Approximately 10 percent of stroke victims fully recover, 25 percent usually have only minor impairments, and 40 percent have some moderate impairments that are usually manageable with appropriate care.
The recovery time for a stroke victim greatly depends on the severity of the stroke, the damage it caused, and the location of the injury. When recovering from a stroke, most of the progress is made within three or four months after the stroke, but gradual progress and recovery can continue to occur for up to two years after the stroke. Sometimes physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and other therapies can help a stroke victim make long-term gains.
What To Expect on A Daily Basis
Many activities that were easy prior to a stroke can suddenly become extremely difficult, such as bathing, dressing, and going through your morning and nightly routine. Special accommodations may need to be made for meals, housekeeping, and driving. These instrumental activities are usually difficult because of the physical side effects of a stroke, but the cognitive symptoms can cause additional issues.
Mental activities such as remembering where an item was placed, being able to follow simple instructions, or keeping track of the day of the week and what time of day it is, are some of the setbacks that many stroke victims suffer. Ensuring that a survivor of stroke has continuous care, and a schedule for activities and therapies to help keep track of these symptoms, since some of them won’t be noticeable until after the patient is back home.
Tips and Tricks for Stroke Caregivers
We’re including some tips and tricks as offered by the American Stroke Association:
- Make Sure You Are Fully Briefed By Healthcare Professionals – Talk to the staff of professionals that worked with your loved one, make sure you understand what to expect, and ask for resources.
- Fully Participate in the Rehabilitation Process – If you are present and available during the rehabilitation process than you can ensure that your loved one is still working on their rehabilitation in their day-to-day activities.
- Pay Attention to New Symptoms, Moods, and Behaviors – As you spend time with your loved one you will be able to see any new symptoms, moods, or behaviors and talk with the doctor about them. This way if depression medication or a bad reaction between prescriptions is happening it can be fixed immediately.
- Remember to Care for Yourself – It is imperative as a family caregiver that you be involved in the rehabilitation of your loved one, but it is equally important that you care for yourself as well. There is plenty of help from others that you can enlist, support groups, in-home assistance, and so much more. Feel free to browse our website for more educational information to help you, and ideas for how to best ensure that you are able to maintain your own mental and physical health.