|What Is The Average Recovery Time After Stroke?
Many patients experience a spontaneous regain of lost abilities in the first month or so after a stroke. However the effects of stroke often require a person to relearn or change the way they live. There is no average stroke recovery time, as recovery depends on the extent of the damage caused by the stroke as well as the age and general health of the patient, as well as their access to support. The following statistics however give a general prognosis (outlook) for patients:
Stroke Recovery Statistics
10 percent of those who survive a stroke recover almost completely.
25 percent recover with minor impairments.
40 percent have moderate to severe impairments which require special care.
10 percent require care in a nursing home or other long-term care facility.
15 percent die shortly after the stroke.
What Is The Goal Of Stroke Recovery?
The goal of stroke recovery is to restore as much independence to the patient as possible by improving physical, emotional and mental functions. An important part of this process is stroke rehabilitation which should start in hospital, usually within a day of the patient becoming stable. Rehabilitation should continue after release from hospital if needed. Although rehabilitation does not reverse the effects of stroke it can help restore some function and make the person as independent as possible. Usually patients find that even a slight improvement of function can make a big difference to the improvement of life quality. Most programs offer a range of therapies depending on the need of the patient, including: physical therapy to help restore range of motion skills like walking; occupational therapy to relearn everyday basic skills like how to dress and eat; speech therapy for those with problems communicating, thinking or swallowing; and therapeutic recreational therapy which reintroduces social and leisure activities into a patient's life. Outside of rehab, there are many other areas which should be addressed to help stroke victims regain control of their lives. We discuss these next.
Going Back Home
As patients look forward to going back home, they and their family need to think about the home environment, the stroke survivor's sense of independence and safety. Changes are usually necessary and the nature of those changes will depend on the person's post-stroke capabilities. The following are some general tips for families to consider.
Ask an occupational therapist to visit the home to carry out an assessment on the house. They may recommend basic adaptations such as removing rugs and furniture that could cause an accident or recommend assistance devices (much like arthritis equipment) which can make everyday activities easier. They may also mention installing grab bars onto the tub, shower or toilet. Consider installing brighter lighting throughout the house.
Patients who have problems with dressing will find the following tips useful:
• Avoid tight fitting arm holes, sleeves, pant legs and waistlines.
• Avoid clothes that must be put on over the head.
• Choose clothes which fasten in the front.
• Replace zippers and buttons with Velcro fasteners.
• Only buy shoes with Velcro closures and not laces.
• Replace shoes that stick to the floor as they might cause a fall (such as crepe soled shoes).
Loss Of Bladder Or Bowel Control
Loss of bowel or bladder, called incontinence is a common problem for stroke survivors. Do be sure to discuss it with your doctor. On the other hand if you are having problems urinating, you need to rule out urinary tract infections. There are drugs which can help prevent all these problems but it may be necessary to consult an urologist. If you suffer from constipation there are many mild laxative supplements and stool softeners on the market that can help.
When Can I Drive Again?
Many stroke survivors do eventually return to driving, however those with perceptual problems are less likely to do so. In order to find out if you are ready to return to driving ask your local stroke center for details of a health care provider with expertise in driving evaluation. This person is aware of the physical and mental issues bought on by stroke, and can tell the difference between temporary changes in driving ability and those which are likely to be permanent. For more information on driver rehabilitation after stroke, visit: www.aota.org/olderdriver
What Can I Do About Depression?
Depression is a very common result of stroke, it can be overwhelming and affect the confidence and spirit of everyone involved. A certain amount of despair is a normal part of the grieving process. But the sooner it is tackled, the less likely it is to lead to a downward spiral. To help prevent depression:
• Be physically active as soon as possible.
• Set achievable recovery goals with your rehab team as a way of measuring your accomplishments.
• Schedule daily activities which provide purpose and structure to your day.
• Consider joining a stroke support group, your local hospital will have details.
• Consider counseling if you feel unable to cope.
Prevent recurrent incidences: Stroke Prevention
Recognize the signs: Symptoms of Stroke
Read about: Mini Stroke
How To Work With Nature: Natural Remedies For Stroke
What Can I Do About Behavior Changes?
Some changes a stroke victim experiences are related to brain damage, these include:
This usually manifests as the need for prompts or reminders to finish a sentence or certain activities. To counteract memory loss, it may help to do things in a more structured manner. You may also find it difficult to concentrate and so attending social situations can be distressing. Choose initially to only attend, small, quiet gatherings.
Apathy/Loss Of Interest
A stroke can affect the part of the brain that stimulates our interest in things and drives us to want to stay active and involved in the world. Apathy after stroke is different to depression (although it may appear the same) and can require an evaluation by a neuropsychologist to treat it. It will be treated differently to depression.
Damage to the left side of the brain can cause you literally to 'forget' or neglect the right side of your environment, including your body (and vice versa if the other side of the brain is affected). You may forget to dress your right side, or leave food on the right side of the plate. If you move your head to the right, neglected objects usually become apparent.
Also called emotional lability or pseudobulbar affect (PBA), this typically manifests as sudden laughing or crying for no obvious reason. Strangely there may be no real mood change and the display of emotion usually ends quite quickly. Drugs can help with this although it usually lessens and gradually disappears over time.
Useful Contact Details
National Stroke Association
Phone: 1-800-strokes or 1-800-787-6537
National Family Caregivers Association
Phone: (800) 896-3650
American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)
Phone: (301) 652-2682