Moving Forward After Stroke

By RehabCare

What Is a Stroke?

A stroke is an accident to the brain that occurs when blood flow to the brain is cut off. Blood flow to the brain carries oxygen and nutrients which keep the brain healthy and working well. When blood flow is absent, some of the brain tissue dies, resulting in a loss of function. The longer the blood flow is cut off, the more damage to the brain that will occur.

Types of Stroke

Blood flow to the brain can be cut off in two ways – either by a blood clot blocking a blood vessel or by a blood vessel bursting open.

Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg that occurs on one side of the body
• Sudden difficulty with walking, balance, dizziness or coordination
• Sudden confusion or difficulty understanding words or people speaking
• Sudden onset of a severe headache of no known cause
• Sudden difficulty talking
• Sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes

If you suspect that you or anyone else is having a stroke – CALL 911 immediately!

Results of Stroke

The loss of function following a stroke is different for every survivor. This is mainly due to:

• What part of the brain the stroke affected
• How much of the brain tissue was damaged
• The overall health of the survivor prior to the stroke
Here are some of the most common problems following a stroke:
• Weakness or total paralysis of the arm, hand and/or leg on one side of the body
• Numbness, pain, or odd sensations on one side of the body
• Decreased ability to concentrate on tasks
• Difficulty with expressing ideas and/or understanding others
• Difficulty with swallowing
• Difficulty with speech – slurring words or struggling to find the “right” word to say
• Decreased coordination
• Difficulty balancing
• Problems with memory
• Emotional changes – frustration, anxiety, grief
• Depression
• Lacks awareness of loss of function after the stroke
• Neglect for the side of the body that lost function after the stroke
• Vision problems
• Difficulty controlling bowel and bladder

Rehabilitation and Post Stroke Activities

Rehabilitation involves multiple medical team members, including physicians, physiatrists, nurses, care managers, psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists. Stroke survivors make the best improvements if they are placed in therapy early after survival.

Therapies may include:

Physical Therapy

Therapists work on sitting, balancing, walking, and transfers.

Occupational Therapy
Therapists work on dressing, feeding, bathing, and other self-care skills.

Speech Therapy
Therapists work on swallowing, diet recommendations, speech, memory, self awareness
and expression.

Post-Stroke Depression

Surviving a stroke can be a life-changing event for the survivor as well as the caregiver. As a result, emotional changes can occur. These include feelings such as anxiety, frustration, helplessness and sadness. These feelings are normal and are part of the healing process. When these feelings are mild, they usually resolve over time. However, when negative feelings affect one’s ability to enjoy living, socialize with others, or complete daily activities, this is not normal or healthy. This may be the beginning signs of depression. Depression can develop not only for the stroke survivor, but also for the caregiver or significant other. Depression may not occur for three or more months following a stroke.

Driving

For people who have had a stroke, being able to safely drive a vehicle may be a concern. There are driving evaluation centers in some metropolitan areas, but many rural areas lack such centers. The stroke survivor’s physician should be consulted to determine whether the survivor is able to safely drive.

For more information about strokes, please visit the website of The American Stroke Association.