A stroke can come out of nowhere, and it can be permanently life-altering, both for the victim and for their friends and family. However, just as the severity of a stroke can vary depending on the individual case, recovery from stroke is different for every person who suffers one. There are a couple constants: recovery from stroke takes time and it takes work. There are also some things that can help make the recovery process easier and produce better results.
The Immediate Aftermath
The first question asked by anyone who experiences a stroke is, “Will I survive?” The second question usually follows closely, which is, “What kind of outcome should I expect?” Luckily, thanks to advances in treatment, mortality has decreased by 40 percent in the last two decades, meaning that more people are alive to ask the second question.
This is not to say that everyone who doesn’t die immediately from a stroke is going to survive. Roughly 28 percent of stroke survivors experience premature mortality, meaning that they pass away within a few weeks or months of having a stroke.
For the most part, the recovery process is about reducing or eliminating the deficiencies that appear as a result of damage to the brain and nervous system. Since the severity of a stroke depends on the size and location of the stroke, deficiencies can vary wildly from temporary to permanent.
One-third of stroke victims need inpatient rehab to overcome or learn to cope with their deficiencies. Others are able to go home in the aftermath of a stroke and only require some outpatient therapy. The remaining stroke victims have deficiencies so severe that they will not be able to recover and will require a nursing home for the rest of their lives.
Types of Therapy
According to Dr. David Steinberg, chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Utah, “Therapy for people recovering from stroke falls into several categories: physical, occupational, speech, and recreational.” Physical therapy focuses on helping people with problems with moving around and maintaining balance. Occupational therapy addresses the cognitive and emotional aspects of stroke recovery, helping people who struggle to do basic activities. Speech therapy assists those who struggle with speech and language function, cognitive, and swallowing. Recreational therapy is about getting people back to doing the things they love, playing games, hiking, etc.
Therapy at Home
A lot of stroke recovery happens outside of the therapy room. Family and friends play a major role in providing psycho-social support for stroke victims. By supporting stroke victims, doing activities with them, encouraging mobility, and educating themselves about stroke and the recovery process, friends and family members can do a lot to shorten the recovery process and give victims the emotional strength they need to push through the difficult times.
As advanced as medicine has become, doctors can only do so much if the patient succumbs to despair or depression. As Dr. Steinberg puts it, “My advice for anyone who suffers a stroke is to maintain hope and engage in the rehab process with a sense of positivity.” By doing so, the recovery process can be something that truly brings people back from a truly difficult challenge.