Written by Dr Vishal Sehgal
Stroke is a leading cause of death worldwide. Estimates by the Indian Stroke Association (ISA) indicate that every year about 17 million people suffer from strokes globally, out of which 6.2 million die and five million suffer disabilities. Every patient encounters their own set of challenges in terms of impairment, physical movement and rehabilitation. But recovery from a stroke can be made better provided there is the right care, support and motivation to help the patient. The person may experience loss of speech, trouble with memory, reasoning and concentration, and partial paralysis. This is where knowing what to expect after a major stroke can go a long way in helping them prepare for the journey ahead. While putting the right questions to a healthcare provider can give more clarity, here are some pointers caregivers should know about recovery at home.
Understand how every journey is unique
It is important to not let others’ stories demotivate you because every stroke survivor’s story is different. Let your experience unfold at its own pace as you help them cope with their impairment and the emotional trauma surrounding it. Work towards helping them gain a gradual acceptance of the new normal. It is important to enable them to understand that recovery may not happen overnight, and beginning with a positive outlook is the key. While this is easier said than done, motivation and personal attention from near and dear ones can make all the difference.
Be prepared for mood swings
Stroke and the subsequent road to recovery can be mentally, physically, and emotionally draining for the survivor. They might undergo a plethora of emotions and be prone to mood fluctuations. Caregivers must be careful to not tell them they know how it feels because no one except them knows. Offer love, patience, and support instead. However, watch out for extreme emotions as they may signal depression. If you see any such signs, contact a specialist immediately.
Right nutrition and exercise
Good nutrition is crucial during any recovery period. Maintain good food habits and exercise routine and help them undertake all the exercises prescribed by the therapist to ensure faster progress.
While some severely affected patients may require feeding tubes and respiratory assistance, others may require physiotherapy and occupational therapy. Depending on the condition of the patient, skilled nursing facilities or home care assistance may be sought. Advances in medical science have brought in many innovations such as advanced neuro-imaging, clot-dissolving drugs, and other high impact treatment methods that can bring better outcomes. Apart from medical treatment, most stroke patients require outpatient therapies for enhancing the quality of life. Some of these include the following:
Physiotherapy is vital for recovery after a stroke and can make a lot of difference in restoring quality of life. Even though recovery may take long, it is important to take regular physiotherapy sessions to work on the affected limbs. The therapist may suggest the use of tools such as a brace or a walker for assisted movement.
Speech and occupational therapy
Speech therapy sessions address language abilities (both verbal and written), cognitive abilities (concentration, memory and attention) as well as difficulties with swallowing. Occupational therapy is required to work on minute problems such as fine-motor skills that control daily activities, functional range and social skill-building.
Stroke can leave the survivor with a multitude of physical challenges and a whole lot of emotional trauma to deal with. Most stroke patients face problems with depression and loneliness as a result of restricted movement and lack of social interaction. Therefore, psychological counselling is an important part of any stroke rehabilitation programme.
Take time out for yourself
Even as you help stroke survivors deal with their condition and care for them, do not forget to look after your health and well-being. Do not hesitate to ask for help if you need it. Try to get some time off in case someone offers to substitute your place for some hours. Use this time to refresh your mind and body since this is essential while caring for someone with a health condition.
Recovery from a stroke can be a huge challenge in itself. The road to recovery is a long and tedious one that requires constant care and continued motivation. You can also reach out to support groups and online forums for social interaction and mutual sharing.
The author is a medical director, Portea Medical