It’s one of your worst nightmares: Mom or Dad has had a stroke. What will this mean for them? What happens next? The aftereffects of a stroke vary widely and depend on the severity of the stroke, which part of the brain was involved, and what the person’s health was like at the time of the stroke. In addition, recovery times vary widely and can range from a few months to a few years. Even the place of recovery can vary, from a hospital-based rehabilitation center to the patient’s home with outpatient visits. Keeping that in mind, here are some common effects your loved one may experience after a stroke and how you can help them bounce back.
Common Effect After a Stroke
Muscle weakness. Weakness following a stroke usually affects just one side of the body. Since the left part of our brain controls the right side of our body (and vice versa), the side affected by weakness will be opposite the side of the brain that experienced the stroke. To combat this effect, physical therapy is advisable as soon it is feasible. The goal will be to regain strength and become as mobile as possible. Encouraging and supporting your loved one to stay committed to their physical therapy plan is crucial to their recovery.
Other muscle symptoms. Stroke patients may experience muscle spasms, twitches, and a feeling of inflexibility in addition to muscle weakness. They may also experience pain or numbness, and an overall feeling of fatigue. Your loved one may also have difficulty controlling body movements, for example raising their right arm when they want to. Many of these symptoms will subside over time, but physical and occupational therapy will help regain muscle function more efficiently.
Eating and speaking problems. People who have had a stroke may experience slurred speech and have trouble coordinating the oral movements necessary for eating and talking. Depending on the part of the brain that is affected by the stroke, a person may have trouble understanding other people, including difficulty comprehending written material. This can make the recovery process especially difficult and frustrating. Therapy provided by a trained speech and language pathologist or occupational therapist can help to rebuild these skills.
Emotional upset. Having a stroke is a scary experience, so it should be no surprise that feelings of frustration, sadness, and depression are common among stroke patients. To combat these symptoms, keep your loved one involved in every step of their treatment plan, remind them of the progress they have made, and encourage them to stay on track. Don’t rule out using medications for depression to help your parent get through this difficult time. Make sure they are surrounded by family and friends as often as possible. Even family that is far away can help by sending cards, having flowers delivered, or calling on the phone once your loved one is ready to chat. Support from family, friends, and a good medical team are crucial elements of any stroke recovery program.