What to Expect After Stroke Diagnosis

By Kindred Healthcare

After Stroke DiagnosisHelping others recognize the signs of a stroke can shorten the time before a person gets treatment, and faster medical treatment can minimize long-term effects or prevent death.

The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association have created greater awareness for stroke symptoms with their F.A.S.T. acronym:

Face drooping
Arm weakness
Slurred speech
Time to call 911

However, for those who have suffered a stroke or know someone who’s had one, it’s just as important to understand what happens after the initial diagnosis.

Courtney Keimig, PT, DPT, Director of Rehabilitation Services at Kindred Rehabilitation Hospital Clear Lake, says, “A stroke is an injury to the brain that can result in functional and cognitive loss,” but she emphasizes that no two strokes are alike.

Strokes can range from mild to severe, based on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how quickly medical treatment was received. “Some stroke patients are able to quickly resume their normal activities, while some can require 24-hour care,” she says.

Stroke Treatment

Kindred Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospitals provide treatment through an interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses and therapists with specialized training in the treatment of stroke patients. The treatment plan is customized specifically for each patient and can include three types of therapy: physical, occupational and speech.

  • Physical therapy focuses on improving the patient’s balance and coordination and strengthening the lower extremities. It also includes gait training (walking), as well as stair and wheelchair training.
  • Occupational therapy helps patients improve activities of daily living, including dressing, grooming and toileting.
  • Speech therapists work on cognition, memory and speech. They also help address any issues the patient has with swallowing.

“Not all stroke survivors require the complete rehab team,” says Keimig. “But if needed, each of these clinicians will perform an evaluation to determine what type of deficits a patient has.”

Stroke Recovery

The patient and his or her family and loved ones are also key members of the care team. Those recovering from stroke can get frustrated when they aren’t able to do things they once could and they need to be patient and allow their bodies time to recover. Keimig says patients need to be committed to their treatment and, to achieve the best recovery results, they will need to “attend all scheduled therapy sessions and consistently complete their home exercise program as instructed by their therapist.” It’s also helpful, she notes, to have a positive attitude when frustration sets in.

In Keimig’s experience, good family and social support are essential to the patient’s recovery process. She recommends that the family works closely with the case manager or other care coordinator to understand what is involved during treatment and after the patient is discharged. It’s also important for the patient’s family members to attend therapy sessions so they can see the progress the patient is making. This is especially true for those who will be caregivers for the patient, because it helps them feel more comfortable with providing appropriate care.

Keimig says it’s ideal if the patient and family or caregiver also join a stroke support group because “these groups remind patients that they are not the only ones experiencing this life change.”

She emphasizes that “caregivers need to know that they are allowed to mourn for the physical and cognitive loss that the stroke survivor experiences.” It’s also important, she says, to know that there are stroke support groups available specifically for caregivers that will allow them to meet and talk with others who are experiencing the same situation.