Strokes can be really frightening and recovery after one can be a lengthy process. Many patients and their family members are anxious to learn how to recover from a stroke quickly and without complications.
It can be overwhelming when someone who is physically and socially active suddenly loses the ability to walk and talk clearly. Since strokes are a leading cause of long-term disability, understanding them and the recovery process is important. A stroke impairs blood supply to the brain, and this is what can lead to speech and mobility problems.
The specific type of issues a stroke victim faces will depend on the area of the brain that is affected by the stroke. About 25 percent of strokes occur in someone who has already had a stroke. Approximately 40 percent of stroke sufferers experience moderate to severe impairments. These impairments require special care.
Some people who have a stroke experience paralysis on one side of the body, problems sensing pain, difficulty understanding and talking, and can become overly emotional.
How does the brain recover after a stroke?
Recovery after a stroke requires patience and commitment. Medical scientists don’t know exactly how the brain recovers, but they do have some possible explanations for how brain rehabilitation happens. Research and anecdotal evidence suggests that the brain may be able to function after a stroke by changing the way different tasks are performed. If blood flow to the affected area of the brain is restored, some of the brain cells that are damaged—as opposed to completely destroyed—may be able to resume functioning at some point. One area of the brain may take control of functions that used to be performed by an affected area.
Recovery after a stroke: Skills you can recover
Many people wonder if you can fully recover from a stroke. Well, studies suggest that about 10 percent of stroke victims recover almost completely, while about 25 percent recover with minor impairments, 15 percent die shortly after, and the remainder require special care due to moderate or severe impairments.
Recovery focuses on rehabilitation and specifically addresses speech, cognitive, motor, and sensory skills. Here’s a closer look at the skills a stroke patient can potentially recover.
- Speech – Aphasia, a language impairment, may be caused by a stroke. Speech-language therapists are trained to help stroke patients learn how to speak clearly, or in situations where damage is severe, teach the stroke patient other ways to communicate.
- Cognitive – Thinking, reasoning and memory problems can be addressed by occupational therapists. They will help with specific mental and physical exercises as well as ensure the home is safe.
- Mobility – A stroke can weaken muscles on one side of the body and impair joint movement. Physical therapists teach stroke patients exercises to strengthen their balance and muscles at the same time. Stretching exercises are one method. Walking aids are also used to help relearn motor skills.
- Sensations – Sensory inputs can be affected by a stroke. This includes heat, cold, or pressure. Therapists can work with stroke patients to help the body adjust to this change.
Family support promotes quick recovery after a stroke
When asked how to recover from a stroke quickly, many doctors will say, “family involvement.” Healthcare professionals have recognized that stroke patients tend to recover impaired physical and mental abilities more quickly if family members step in and help the patient with their recovery. Studies indicate that a helpful family not only leads to patients improving balance, motor function, and walking distance, but also helps them with other general activities associated with daily living. Family participation is also an asset because it seems to empower the caregivers and helps to reduce the stress they feel as a result of the illness.
The best way to recover from a stroke may be different in each situation, but no matter what the level of impairment is, having family or close friends around to support and encourage you during recovery can be a huge motivating factor. In one study, researchers discovered that those who had family involvement in their therapy spent less time confined to a hospital than those who didn’t have any family involved in their recovery.
How to recover from a stroke quickly
There is no set timeline for recovery. Some people go through rehab and are able to resume normal activities in a matter of months, while others may take a year or more to regain some of their functioning. Here are some ways to help speed up the recovery process.
- Emotional support – Support and encouragement are vital when overcoming the effects of stroke, so spending quality time with family and friends whether it is watching television, talking or playing games is important and does speed up recovery.
- Embrace rehab – Starting rehab as soon as the doctor gives the green light is one of the best ways to help a stroke victim get on with life. It can improve functioning both physically and mentally.
- Devices – Supportive devices are extremely helpful and can assist people with duties like walking, getting dressed, and eating. Raised toilets, fixed grab bars, and cups with special handles are a few options that are available.
- Thoughtful Communication – Since strokes can cause communication difficulties, family members need to be slow and clear whenever they are communicating with a stroke patient. Good eye contact is also helpful, as is encouraging the stroke patient to speak.
- Psychologists – Stroke victims can experience psychological changes that should not be ignored. They can be depressed, frustrated, or even aggressive. There is no shame is asking for help from a psychologist.
- Treadmill – Studies show that walking on a treadmill can augment walking efficiency in stroke patients. There also seems to be an improvement in aerobic capacity when a stroke patient uses a treadmill.
- Games – Research demonstrates that video games systems, such as the Nintendo Wii, can help in speeding up recovery for stroke patients. Some U.S. doctors now recommend Wii to help patients regain arm and leg movement.
- Meditation – Different forms of meditation have shown to reduce depression, tiredness, and fatigue, as well as improve attention, regulate emotion, and improve information processing.
- Diet – A healthy, nutritious diet can give your body and brain the energy it needs to recover.
- Sleep – Research shows that sleep helps to improve movement after a stroke by turning short-term memories from the day’s rehab session into long-term memories. So, the more sleep a stroke patient gets, the better opportunity there is for the brain to recover.
There are also compensation techniques that can be helpful. These are methods to help a stroke victim adapt to any deficits he or she may have. For example, a Kindle compensates for holding and reading a book or a cane compensates for impaired balance.
Preventive tips for quick recovery after stroke
There are certain tips for stroke recovery that you should keep in mind. First and foremost, survivors of strokes are at a high risk of having another stroke if the treatment is not followed If you have a family member or friend who has suffered a stroke, make sure they follow their doctor’s instructions as well as any rehabilitation protocols. Below are some other important recovery tips.
- Avoid comparisons – Recovery depends on where in the brain the stroke occurred, how much of the brain is affected, and how motivated the patient is during rehabilitation. Every survivor is different and it isn’t helpful to compare.
- Become aware – If a loved one has had a stroke, find out what medications they have been prescribed, ask if their house requires modifying, and get information from doctors and therapists about care and recovery.
- Physical therapy – When dizziness, imbalance, and difficulty walking are outcomes of a stroke, caregivers should encourage the assistance of a physical and occupational therapist.
- Don’t ignore falls – Falls can be serious and lead to severe pain, bruising, and bleeding. When falls occur, a doctor should be consulted.
- Measure progress – Measuring the progress of rehabilitation is important to recovery. For example, acute rehabilitation therapy is measured each week by the Functional Independence Measure Score, or FIMS.
- Coverage/Eligibility – Medicare coverage may be available for your loved one. When there is improvement or decline in function, he or she may be eligible for more services.
- Monitor changes – Consult a doctor if and when your loved one shows signs of difficulty controlling emotions or is depressed.
If you are in a position where you are advocating for a stroke victim, keep in mind that most communities have resources, such as stroke survivor or caregiver support groups, for you to turn to. Doctors and case managers can often guide you to many community resources.
It is unfortunate, but close to 800,000 Americans suffer from a stroke every year, and while recovery isn’t easy, it can begin right after doctors have stabilized the condition. Often times, the recovery process begins when a person is still hospitalized and continues long after being released. The point is that the sooner rehabilitation begins, the higher the chances are of regaining affected brain and body function.