Strokes occur when a blood clot disrupts blood flow to the brain, resulting in brain damage and permanent disability.
Recovery from a stroke varies from person to person. After a stroke, it may take your loved one months or a year to recover. A stroke can dramatically affect someone’s life. They may not be able to return to an active lifestyle.
As a family member, it can be challenging to watch your loved one struggle to regain abilities such as walking or speaking. It’s important to remain positive throughout the recovery period.
Here’s what you should know about your loved one’s recovery following a stroke.
1. There are different types of rehabilitation programs.
Rehabilitation depends on the severity of the stroke. Recovery begins in the hospital but may continue at an inpatient rehabilitation facility in the event of a major stroke with severe disabilities.
Here, they will receive intense therapy to regain the ability to walk, speak, and perform other tasks. If your loved one has minor disabilities, they might go home once discharged from the hospital. In this case, they’ll receive physical, speech, or occupational therapy at home or in an outpatient facility a few times a week.
2. There’s a risk of a second stroke.
Having one stroke can increase the risk of another stroke, so it’s important for your loved one to stick with their treatment plan.
Depending on the underlying cause of the stroke, treatment might include medication to lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Doctors may also recommend your loved one modify their diet to include more fruits and vegetables, and less salt and fat.
Other ways to prevent a second stroke include exercising (30 minutes three to five days a week), quitting smoking, and maintaining a healthy blood sugar level.
3. Recovery is unpredictable.
A doctor can’t predict your loved one’s recovery. Some people fully recover from a stroke, whereas others live with permanent disabilities.
The outcome depends on the parts of the brain affected by the stroke, the time it took to receive medical treatment, and the quality of rehabilitation.
Don’t compare your loved one’s progress to the progress of others who’ve had a stroke. Every stroke survivor is different.
4. Recovery takes time.
You can’t predict how long it will take your loved one to regain lost abilities. It may take six months to a year for them to walk on their own again. If you feel that your loved one isn’t recovering quickly, keep in mind that some people continue to experience progress two or three years after a stroke.
5. You can assist in their recovery.
If you don’t know much about strokes, it’s important to educate yourself. This will help you understand your loved one’s prognosis and ask the right questions.
Accompany your loved one to doctor appointments and speak with their care team (physical therapist, occupational therapist, and speech therapist) to see how you can help in their recovery.
There may be simple exercises you can do with them in between appointments.
6. You’ll need to make the home a safer place.
When your loved one is ready to return home, make sure the living space is safe. It may still be difficult for them to get around. Possible adjustments include moving the bedroom to the first floor and eliminating trip hazards throughout the home, such as throw rugs. Also, take safety measures in the bathroom. Install handrails and shower seats to prevent falls and injuries.
7. Your loved one may experience depression.
Temporary and permanent disabilities after a stroke can take an emotional toll on your loved one. Losing the ability to be active and independent is an adjustment, and they may experience bouts of depression, sadness, and grief.
Continue to provide love and support as they cope with the change in circumstance. If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from depression, speak with their doctor.
8. It’s okay for you to ask for help.
Caring for someone after a stroke can also take a physical and emotional toll on you. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Stroke recovery can be a long process, and you may be unable to do everything yourself. Since caregivers are also at risk for depression, remember to take breaks to rejuvenate.
Check with your loved one’s health insurance to learn details about their coverage. See if their plan covers respite care, or ask a family member for assistance with errands or help around the house. You should also look into support groups for your loved one and yourself. Speaking with other caregivers can be a source of encouragement.
9. Your loved one may require additional therapy.
If you notice a decline in your loved one’s progress after they’ve completed therapy, talk to their doctor. This may include a decline in their speech, motor skills, or walking. Stroke recovery can be an ongoing process, and your loved one may require additional therapy.
Stroke rehabilitation can take weeks, months, or years depending on the severity. Recovery is also unpredictable, and your loved one may not regain all the abilities they lost. The important thing is to provide as much support and love as you can and to encourage them through every step of the process.