We are gearing up for stroke awareness month. Strokes are unfortunately very common traumas for seniors and are typically unexpected. This can be scary and devastating, but we want you to know that there is hope after a stroke!
Some common physical changes include weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, fatigue, and seizures. Physical weaknesses must be combated with physical therapy. When it comes to muscle function, you must use it, or you will lose it. Remember progress is positive! For example, it may take several weeks to graduate from using a walker to walking with a cane. This is a HUGE victory! It is difficult to be patient, but even if you are taking baby steps, you are making progress in the right direction.
Cognitive changes are also common following a stroke. The brain is a complex organ that is responsible for speaking, listening and understanding language. The location of the stroke injury will determine the type of communication problem that could be experienced. Speech therapy often helps people regain the majority of functionality lost. When working with a stroke survivor, remember to SLOW it down. E-NUN-CI-ATE. Come close and make eye contact. Be specific and give plenty of time for them to respond. Always remember that difficulty speaking, and understanding is NOT because of a lack of intelligence. These challenges are purely due to lost brain functionality, and through persistent speech therapy, these processes can be relearned.
Both physical and cognitive deficits are challenging to overcome after a stroke. It is not surprising that stroke survivors are at risk of developing emotional and personality changes as well. Be mindful that depression and anxiety are common. A good way to avoid heading down a depression spiral is to help your loved one focus on the positive. Set small, achievable goals, and celebrate success. Stay in touch with support networks to avoid isolation. Visit strokeassociation.org to join a virtual support community and learn about tips for daily living. You are not in this alone. There is life and hope after a stroke!