A stroke can be a life-changing event. One occurs when there isn’t enough blood circulating to the brain, causing cells to die. Strokes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, with 17.6 percent of the roughly 795,000 cases each year resulting in deaths. And for those who survive, it’s also the leading cause of disability in the United States.

With so many people suffering a stroke each year, around one every 40 seconds, recovery becomes essential. While a large chunk of the recuperation will occur in the hospital, a lot of work is left for when you return home. In order to successfully recover, you need to stay safe, prevent another stroke, and rehabilitate your body and mind.

Keeping Your Loved One Safe

Every stroke is different since they can occur in different places in the brain or under different circumstances. Many stroke recoverees suffer from physical symptoms like weakness, issues with balance, or paralysis. They’ll often also experience issues with confusion or memory problems. Some recoverees may also experience issues with bladder or bowel control. These can all impact the safety and day-to-day living of a loved one. As a caregiver, providing for recoveree safety is essential during a destabilizing and insecure time.

As a caregiver, providing for recoveree safety is essential during a destabilizing and insecure time.

What can make safety even tougher is that stroke recoverees often struggle with communication, either in expressing or understanding. That’s why you need to watch for danger signs like dizziness, falling, trouble walking or moving, or quickly getting tired. You can work on some of these symptoms by working with the recoveree to strengthen their leg muscles and improve their balance with physician-approved exercises.

Next, you’ll want to make the recoveree’s home safe. Make sure all walkways are clear of obstructions or hazards like loose carpets or floor runners. Installing hand rails around the home can also prevent falls and help the recoveree maneuver throughout the home. If you have the opportunity, meet with an occupational therapist, who can investigate the home before the recoveree leaves the hospital and make safety suggestions with them in mind. This can give you a professional view of safety concerns in the home and how to fix them.

Future Stroke Prevention

Another aspect of stroke recovery is prevention. One in four stroke recoverees will suffer another stroke in their lifetime. Recurrent strokes are deadlier and more likely to leave you disabled than a first stroke. Limiting the chances of a recurrent stroke is an important step in recovering from the initial stroke.

The first thing a recoveree and their doctor could do to prevent a recurrent stroke is to find the cause of the first stroke. Common medical factors of strokes include heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and a family history of stroke. Any recovery plan will need to account for whichever factor influenced the first stroke.

Common medical factors of strokes include heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and a family history of stroke.

It’s also wise to cut out the other common risk factors, even if they didn’t cause the first stroke. There are several lifestyle choices that specifically aid in stroke prevention. Smoking is a large one of these, but use of drugs like cocaine or methamphetamines or heavy use of alcohol can influence your chances of a stroke. Losing weight is also shown to lower your risk of a stroke.

Getting Your Life Back

Strokes can be devastating to a person’s body and mind. In the days, months, and even years following a stroke, the recoveree will need physical, emotional, and occupational support. Physical therapy is important to helping a person recovering from stroke build up their strength and return to daily functions. Not only will physical therapy aim to improve physical strength, but also balance and coordination to prevent falls.

Support groups are invaluable sources of backing and information from people going through the same things as the recoveree and their family.

Emotional support is also essential for stroke recoverees. Depression and a host of other mood disorders tend to follow a stroke. Therapy and medications are usually available to help in these cases. Support groups for stroke survivors and their families are also common around the country. These are invaluable sources of backing and information from people going through the same things as the recoveree and their family.

Occupational therapists can also give recoverees and their families more than home safety analysis. Occupational therapists can also help with a number of other recovery strategies. The chief focus is improving the daily lives of the recoveree, with everything from eating to bathing to reading and writing within their scopes. Furthermore, enlisting the help of a speech therapist is key. Since a stroke is usually accompanied by communication issues in the recoveree, assistance reclaiming the ability to speak is essential to regaining independence.

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Strokes strike more than three quarters of a million people each year in the United States. With the devastation it can wreak on those it hits, the road to recovery can seem long. With the right team and the right caregivers, thousands of recoverees achieve it annually. If your loved one is recovering from a stroke, by working closely with your doctor and a therapy team, your recoveree can join that number.

Further Reading

Medicareful Living — How Can I Tell If I’m Having a Stroke?
National Stroke Association — Stroke Recovery