Survivors: Life After Stroke

stroke2As the treatment technology progresses, more than 7 million Americans have survived strokes today. If you are or have a stroke survivor in your family, please be positive, because the hope of getting better is never gone. Please be patient, since the recovery is a life long process. Please be informed, since there are a lot of changes brought by the stroke you should acknowledge. Today we talk about life after stroke. The information is crucial because it matters to the survivors’ recovery, rehabilitation, and next stroke attack prevention.

Be Prepared: Changes by stroke
Surviving a stroke, we first should admit that stroke changes life, both physically and emotionally. Stroke causes brain injury that may affect how people move, communicate, think and act. Here are some common general changes survivors might experience after a stroke:

  • Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Tire easily
  • Change in personality, performing improper language or behaviors
  • Difficulty with memory, judgment, and problem solving
  • Difficulty with peripheral vision and problems with visual cognition

Other changes are dependent on whether it is left- or right-brain injury. Generally, one side of the brain controls the opposite side of the body. For example, right-brain injury may result in weakness or paralysis on left side of the body. The survivor also tends to lack awareness of the left side.
At the same time, stroke survivors also go through a series of changes emotionally. Many of them experience frequent emotional instability. Other changes include:

  • Depression
  • Lack of motivation and indifferent
  • Unexpected feeling of anger, anxiety and frustration

The above are common changes that stroke survivors would go through during the recovery process. It’s best for family members and patients to be prepared and recognize these changes in time.

Returning Home
When the patient is medically stabilized, the physician may recommend returning home. Some stroke patients are afraid of this process for the fear of having another stroke attack. There are a lot of other fears due to this change of setting that we also need to understand. For instance, some may feel that their friends and family will abandon them. Or they fear that their loved ones are not competent in proper caretaking. Being surrounded by other people at home may also make them realize their disability, which can be hard to accept. Therefore, family members and hospital staff need to work together to prepare for the transition.stroke1

When is the right time?
There are four major factors to consider when assessing whether getting back to home is a good decision. Stroke survivors at home need to have ability of self-care, meaning one should be able to accomplish some basic daily activities. Also since the medical care still continues, the patient needs to have the ability to follow medical advice as well. It is also highly recommended that a caregiver, either family member or hired professional staff, assist the patient when needed. In addition, the survivor needs to have the ability to move around and communicate, so that they can ask for help in an emergency.

Adapt your home
Before welcoming your loved one home, family members should work with professional staff to change the home setting, making it safe, accessible, and comfortable for the stroke survivor to live.
First, you need to check every corner of your home and be diligent about hidden hazards that may cause falls and other accidents. Measures like taking up the throw rugs, having more lighting, using a non-skid mat, and fixing your floor or staircase are highly recommended. Further action, like installing a raised toilet seat, safety grab bars or handrails can also be helpful. You may also want to build a ramp so that patient can move around as much as possible.

Caregiver
Caregivers are often the spouse, adult child, or parent who provide most of the care for stroke patient at home. Since the recovery process is a challenge for both patient and caregiver, we suggest the two sides to share decision-making and feelings as much as possible. The caregiver’s responsibilities range from providing physical assistance, taking care of the survivor’s everyday life, to managing financial affairs, and providing emotional support. In other words, the caregiver needs to cover almost every part of the stroke survivor’s life.
However, we should not neglect that caregivers also need care themselves. Try to encourage the survivor to be as independent as possible. This will not only relieve your pressure but also help the survivor’s recovery progress. While you encourage your loved one to participate in leisure activities, you can also try to have fun. It’s totally fine to take a break, which would be beneficial for both you and your patient. A paid professional caregiver is also a choice many people turn to. While you try to take good care of people in you life, remember to take care yourself as well.

Resources
http://www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=surv
http://www.strokeassociation.org/idc/groups/stroke-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_309716.pdf
http://www.strokeassociation.org/idc/groups/stroke-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_309720.pdf
http://www.strokeassociation.org/idc/groups/stroke-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_309723.pdf

Sound Body, Sound Mind

As our body goes, so goes our mind.
You know how you feel after a long car trip, when you finally get out of the car and stand up, you’re stiff and sore, right? Imagine years of not getting up. One day you’ll realize your body aches are chronic and your memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. Most just complain and brush it off as old age.

Senior-doing-neck-stretches-350x234
You don’t have to live this way! Make yourself get up and do something aerobic at least 3 times per week. You could go on a walk, run, take a bike ride, invest in cardio equipment, or join a gym. Start slow and steady. Try to get your heart rate up for at least 20 minutes each time. Add in weight bearing exercise, flexibility and balance exercises, and notice your aches and pains diminish.

Find a Buddy
I recommend finding an exercise buddy to keep yourself on track. Those who exercise with a partner are much more likely to continue their routine. Motivating each other and holding each other accountable to your exercise schedule goes a long way in your success.penguinbuds

What’s good for your heart is also good for your mind
Each year that we don’t get the exercise our body needs, we age prematurely. Not only does your body start to deteriorate, so does your mind. Studies have shown that exercise can actually ward off dementia, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and high blood pressure. According to Dr. Stephan Bamberger, PhD, Lac, “The connection between Alzheimer’s disease and blood supply to the brain, has recently been confirmed by researchers at the University of Leiden in Holland.” As your blood flow decreases, due to clogged arteries or blood clots, your body and mind will feel the difference.

3menAvoid Crippling Effects and Future Medication
• Exercise has been proven to:
• Improve your immunity
• Improve your cardiovascular function
• Improve your digestive system
• Protect against loss of bone mass with weight bearing exercises
• Improve your functional reach
• Improve your balance and flexibility
• Reduce pain from rheumatoid arthritis
• Reverse muscle atrophy

As a former fitness club owner, I witnessed the positive effects on the elderly, who happened to make up the majority of our membership. Two personal stories are testimonies to the need to begin or continue an exercise routine.

Virginia
The oldest member of our club was sharp as a tack, with memory better than most our younger members. She was (and still is) friendly and loved by all our members who came in to work out the same hours as she. Virginia drove herself and a friend to our club 3 x’s per week. She walked laps in our pool, stretched out in the hot tub, took a shower and afterwards, usually rushed out to meet some friends for dinner. We celebrated her 100th Birthday Party at our gym with her family and friends.

muscle_brain
Texas
Waiting in the dark in his car 3 mornings per week, Texas would wait until an employee arrived to open the door at 5:15 a.m. Texas proved to his doctor that he had what it takes to ward off the diseases that can come with old age. I met Texas when he was a young 75 year old gentleman. The previous year, Texas was told by his Dr. that he was going to die in 6 months if he didn’t start changing his ways. He was diagnosed with Type II diabetes and high blood
pressure. The very next day he joined a fitness center and started walking on a treadmill for and hour 3 x’s per week and started watching what he ate. In 6 months, his diabetes had disappeared and he was taken off his heart medication. Now 78 years of age, he continues his routine religiously each week, always with a smile on his face.
Allow Virginia and Texas to be your inspiration. Kick some of those painful signs of old age by making some lifestyle changes to improve your quality of life.
Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program.