We are wrapping up
Stroke Month and with that, I’d like to raise the topic of stroke recovery. If
you've spent any appreciable time around a stroke survivor, you'll
notice there is a bit more to recovery than regaining movement and speech.
Survivors also face an uphill battle when it comes to regaining their
emotional and cognitive abilities.
Of all the aspects of life that stroke affects, its impact on a survivor’s
personality may be the most difficult for family and friends to understand
and to become accustomed. Emotional changes are typical after any type
of stroke. Mood disorders such as depression, anxiety and
Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA) are fairly common results of stroke and can be profound when it means
a loss of independence.
Psuedobulbar affect, known also as “emotional liability,” or
“reflex crying” can stress the lives of survivors, by making
social interaction unpredictable and difficult. Depression is typically
the most common emotional change after stroke, but other psychological
changes can be just as debilitating and frustrating.
Cognitive challenges in thinking, such as difficulty solving problems,
present memory issues and other types of communication challenges. Many
survivors experience some level of apathy and don’t seem to care
about anything. This can be mistaken for depression when survivors seem
content to sit and stare off into space.
While recovering from a stroke is difficult, it is possible. Stroke survivors
and their families can find workable solutions to most difficult situations
by approaching every problem with patience, ingenuity, perseverance, and
creativity. Early recovery and rehabilitation can improve functions and
sometimes remarkable recoveries for someone who suffered a stroke.
At St. Mary’s Medical Center, we are committed to giving our patients
all the tools and resources available to support them in their recovery.
Below are some tips we’ve put together for stroke survivors during
the rehabilitation process:
- Believe in yourself. The biggest mistake most stroke survivors make is
assuming a full recovery is not possible – but it is.
- Make repetition your new best friend. Practicing rehab exercises sporadically
will not encourage recovery. The brain needs a high number of repetitions
to successfully rewire itself and heal.
- Set goals and measure your progress. Approaching rehab exercises indifferently
won’t motivate you to keep moving forward. Set benchmarks and take
steps to actively get there.
- Lean on friends and family. You are likely to have a team of therapists
and doctors who will support you through your recovery. But, when you
are on your own, be sure to schedule time with friends and family to socialize
and relax. This will help tremendously in easing depression or anxiety.
- Understand all possible side effects. Stroke side effects vary and may
not develop until later on in recovery, like emotional lability. By staying
on top of the potential side effects that you may experience, you can
avoid panicking if something goes wrong.
Rehab sessions consume a minimum of three hours a day for most patients.
But, starting early--especially in that first month, with dedication to
a plan, statistics confirm better outcomes for stroke survivors.
Finally, remember - when stroke occurs, time is the enemy. Time lost is
brain lost. Learn the signs of stroke and call 9-1-1.
Barbara Miller is St. Mary's Stroke Program Coordinator and can be
reached at 816-655-5563