Each year, around 795,000 Americans survive a stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Thousands of people around the nation are living with the after-effects of stroke.
Survivors of a cardiovascular accident (CVA), also referred to as stroke, face a challenging journey to become fully functional again.
What happens after stroke?
Rehab begins in the first 24 to 48 hours following a stroke. In this period, your doctor will help you move in bed to strengthen your limbs. This helps you re-learn independence and self-care.
Rehab can’t cure the damage a stroke causes, but the human brain is capable of amazing adaptability. With time, different parts of the brain can take over roles originally assigned to other areas. Certain brain cells also can recover from temporary damage.
Someone who suffered a CVA can expect the following, according to the National Stroke Association:
- 10 percent recover almost completely
- 25 percent recover with minor impairments
- 40 percent experience moderate to severe impairments that require support
- 10 percent require a nursing home or long-term care facility
- 15 percent die shortly after a stroke
The extent of support needed determines whether you receive care at home, via outpatient therapy, in a hospital, or in a long-term care facility.
You can expect an array of challenges following a CVA, depending on the part of your brain affected. Problems tend to fall into one of five broad categories:
- difficulty controlling movement or paralysis, which usually affects half the body
- pain and other types of sensory disturbance, including incontinence
- problems understanding or using language, such as losing the ability to speak and write
- cognitive difficulties, for example, memory problems and a short attention span
- emotional disturbances such as fear, anxiety, frustration, and sadness
Healthcare providers and therapists will work to help you regain the ability to walk. Therapy can include activities in pools and on treadmills. You’ll also receive help to re-learn daily living tasks, such as how to prepare meals and groom yourself.
Other programs focus on word comprehension, reading and writing exercises, and memory cues. Foods can be modified for people who have difficulty swallowing. Such programs can occur in inpatient and outpatient units, hospitals, and at home.
An occupational therapist can help a person’s family prepare for a return home. Grab bars may be need in the bathroom, on walls near the bed, and along hallways. The goal is to help you move more independently and to help facilitate walking.
Safety measures can also include removing barriers. You may need to remove anything you could trip on, such as small, moveable rugs, uneven flooring, and loose items on the floor.
Keep life simple
People who experience a CVA require routines in their life during rehabilitation. Try to use simple sentences that require only yes or no answers.
Keep clothing choices simple. Pullovers and shoes with hook-and-loop fasteners work well.
Minimize distractions. Depression is common, so talk to a doctor about medicine, diet, and exercise options.
Return to work
Many people return to full- or part-time jobs after experiencing a stroke. It’s not always an easy transition. For example, the person may suffer from fatigue, difficulty recalling words, and memory problems.
But the more self-sufficient someone is, the more likely they’ll successfully return to daily life. The Barthel index, a measure of functional independence, is taken upon someone’s admission and discharge from a hospital. The index can help measure an individual’s mobility and functionality following a stroke.