If you or a loved one has experienced a stroke, then you know that there can be many unexpected side effects during or after recovery. While some of these side effects can be short term, many can turn into long-term disabilities. During the stroke recovery process, you or your loved one will focus on restoring what you can and learning to adapt to any lasting side effects. The process is really all about adapting to a new normal and remaining as independent as possible.
For many, recovery involves an active approach. This may involve adapting to new changes as well as finding additional emotional, social, and physical means of support. Let’s explore some things you can do during your stroke recovery to help you achieve the best outcome.
Stroke Side Effects
Before we dive into stroke recovery, let’s discuss some of the short-term and long-term effects from a stroke. When someone experiences a stroke, they may have physical, mental, and cognitive side effects.
To help an aging loved one during their recovery process, it can help to consider all three of these areas and how your loved one is affected.
Tips to Help Stroke Recovery
1. Set realistic goals
Work with your loved one to set realistic goals for recovery. Consider the different types of side effects and set meaningful and realistic goals. These could range from being able to perform simple tasks to long-term goals. Try not to pick goals that are out of reach. While goals should be something to work towards, they shouldn’t be impossible.
For example, your loved one could develop vascular dementia, a common type of dementia that can occur after multiple strokes. If this happens, then you can expect your loved one to experience memory problems and declining cognitive function over time. It may not be a realistic goal for you and your loved one to focus heavily on regaining memory. Instead, it may be better to focus on short-term goals related to performing day-to-day activities or strengthening the muscles on the weakened side of the body.
Working with your loved one’s doctor or therapist can help you and your loved one set achievable recovery goals.
2. Keep Doing the Exercises
If you or a loved one has suffered from a stroke, you may have met with a physical therapist or other health professional and received exercises to aid in recovery. These exercises are extremely important for recovery, especially if many of the effects of the stroke were physical.
It is common for stroke survivors to have weakened muscles on one side of their body. Exercises not only help build up the weakened muscles, but they also help retrain the brain and teach it new ways to move so that individuals can perform regular tasks independently or with minimal assistance.
Your exercise routine is unique to you and your stroke side effects. The more you stick to your prescribed exercises, the better outcome you will achieve.
3. Maintain Good Mental Health
After someone suffers a stroke, they may experience depression. Depression can hinder the recovery process. It can cause your loved one to feel discouraged, give up on their goals, and even choose not to work toward better outcomes anymore.
Some seniors may also have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) after a stroke. While this disorder is often associated with military veterans, it can happen to anyone who has experienced a traumatic event — and a stroke can be very traumatic. PTSD can cause anxiety, depression, guilt, and more, and it can also become an obstacle on the road to recovery.
Stroke survivors can turn to mental health professionals to help them with these symptoms and achieve better mental health. This can often be accomplished through therapy, medication, or a combination of both. However, it might also involve changing your diet, exercising more, and making other lifestyle changes.
4. Stay Positive
It’s easy to become discouraged if you don’t see much progress in your stroke recovery. However, it’s important to remain positive. Focus on the small wins. Maybe you weren’t able to put a sock on 2 weeks ago, but now you can! That’s still a huge achievement — even if you might not be at your end goal of walking independently.
During stroke recovery, you might also see more results withing the first 3 to 6 months after a stroke. This period of time can be very motivating since you are seeing changes all the time. However, after that time, you may not see as much progress, which is referred to as the stroke recovery plateau. But you should still work toward your goals because further recovery is possible.
You may want to join a support group with other stroke survivors to help you stay motivated. Maybe you create a reward system to help keep you going. Or surround yourself with friends and family members who can cheer you on.
5. Reduce Your Stroke Risk
Stroke survivors are at a high risk of experiencing another stroke. Analyze your risk factors and make a plan to reduce your stroke risk as much as possible. To help you, here’s a breakdown of controllable and uncontrollable risk factors to consider.
Uncontrollable Risk Factors
- Family History
- A previous stroke
Controllable Risk Factors to Address
- High Blood Pressure
- Atrial Fibrillation
- High Cholesterol
- Circulation Problems
- Tobacco Use
- Alcohol Use
- Physical Inactivity
The best prevention strategy is to find a way to decrease the controllable risk factors that may lead to another stroke. For example, establishing an exercise routine can help some regain balance and their range of motion while also reducing some of the stroke risk factors. In addition, discussing prevention methods with a health care provider and doctor will help you better understand the risk factors.
For additional information on stroke, review our free stroke resource: Warning Signs of a Stroke.