Did you know almost one million people in the United States suffer one or more strokes a year? When someone experiences a stroke, the blood supply carrying nutrients and oxygen to the brain is reduced or interrupted. The resulting damage from a stroke causes millions of brain cells to die, and immediate treatment is necessary to mitigate additional and more severe damage. Because a stroke is considered a medical emergency, immediate medical treatment is pivotal to reduce the impact on the brain and increase the rate and success of stroke recovery efforts. Not all strokes are easy to spot, and not every person who experiences a stroke will live with life-long motor or cognitive complications.
Recovering from a stroke can be a long and arduous process. For some, the damage caused by a stroke can mean spending the rest of their lives relying on others for care. A severe stroke can cause paralysis in some or all parts of the body, numbness, difficulty speaking or swallowing, and trouble with cognitive processes like focusing, thinking, and problem-solving. In some patients, a stroke can cause damage that requires them to relearn some of the most basic daily tasks. Tasks like reading and writing, driving a car, feeding themselves, and even getting dressed can require the assistance of therapists and loved ones to relearn.
A critical window for recovery after stroke | John Krakauer | TEDx JohnsHopkinsUniversity
Spotting a Stroke – Act Fast
Immediate treatment is an imperative first step when someone is experiencing a stroke. The acronym F.A.S.T. has been adopted for stroke awareness education. Getting medical attention as soon as possible to someone suffering a stroke can be instrumental in stopping the damage that may cause lifelong complications and irreversible brain damage. Remember, a stroke may be minor and the visible signs may not be easy to spot. An even more difficult variable to spotting the signs of a stroke is that the person experiencing it may not even recognize they’re having one.
- F – Face: is there drooping on one side of the person’s face? Asking them to smile can help you identify if a stroke may be taking place.
- A – Arm Weakness: Ask the person to raise or lower both of their arms. Check to see that the person can hold up both arms. Slowly and unintentionally lowering one arm, or trouble lifting one arm altogether could be a telltale sign of stroke.
- S – Speech Difficulties: Engaging a person by asking questions or asking them to repeat a sentence can help you determine if they are slurring their words. In some cases, a stroke patient may start saying incorrect sentences or words.
- T – Time to Call 911: If you or someone you know begin to show the above listed signs, please dial 911 immediately. Your fast action could help save their life, and may help stop further damage to their brain.
Stroke Recovery – The Long Road Ahead
A stroke of any severity can leave a patient reeling. Hopefully, if you or someone you love has experienced a stroke, medical treatment was obtained as soon as possible. Even with fast emergency response measures, the aftermath of a stroke, big or small, can cause long-term damage. Stroke recovery can be a long process, and in many cases, a stroke patient may not fully return to the capabilities they once had before their stroke.
Stroke recovery usually involves a variety of therapies aimed at helping relearn fine and gross motor skill functions. In some cases, it requires the patient to work one on one with therapists that can help teach them basic life skills. Physical, speech, and occupational therapists are typically heavily involved in the recovery process. Speech and language therapists can help patients rewire their brains and relearn how to read, write, enunciate, and formulate words to help with communication. Occupational therapists focus on each patient’s individual needs, and help achieving a quality of life as it pertains to basic daily tasks. An occupational therapist may help a patient with cooking, bathing themselves, or even organizational tasks. While some patients may never regain the ability to partake in some of the things they once did with ease, intensive and focused therapies conquer goals one step at a time for the greatest success.
The recovery process will no doubt require all hands on deck. From caregivers to medical professionals, and most importantly, a close group of loved ones to lean on when the going gets tough, it’s important to set reasonable timelines and expectations when it comes to recovery. The American Stroke Association has a great list of things to expect while recovering, or helping someone recover after a stroke.
Depression is a serious mental health issue for many people who have survived a stroke. The inability to accomplish tasks and enjoy hobbies or activities they once did can take a toll on one’s state of mind. Finding support networks within your community, and educating yourself and loved ones is the best way to be fully prepared to help someone who has suffered a stroke navigate their new abilities. For a list of helpful mental health resources, available to people of all ages, please see our blog here. Changes in diet and lifestyle may be necessary to help keep another stroke at bay.
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