Someone in the United States suffers a stroke every 40 seconds. This staggering statistic mostly affects individuals over age 65, making senior citizens a common target. A stroke can have devastating effects on the body and mind, often making it difficult for these individuals to perform basic tasks like bathing and dressing. Even a mini-stroke, which may seem more minor, can significantly impact physical and mental health. If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke, make recovery a top priority.
Stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or reduced. This causes a sudden death of brain cells as brain tissue is deprived of oxygen and essential nutrients. There are three main types of stroke: ischemic, hemorrhagic, and TIA.
Ischemic stroke develops when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain encounters an obstruction. Approximately 87 percent of all stroke cases are ischemic.
Hemorrhagic stroke occurs due to the rupturing of a weakened blood vessel. High blood pressure is often associated with hemorrhagic stroke.
TIA (transient ischemic attack) is caused by a temporary blood clot. Also known as a “mini-stroke,” this type of warning stroke causes a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain.
While each stroke can have different consequences depending on the part of the brain injured and the severity of the damage, there are several common after-effects you can expect to see in a stroke survivor.
Many seniors who have suffered strokes struggle with weakness or paralysis on one side of the body. In some cases, just a single limb is affected. The weakness or paralysis generally affects the side of the body opposite the side of the brain that was injured by the stroke. Seniors who have suffered a stroke may have difficulty with coordination and balance. While standing or walking, the body may pull to one side, making it difficult to perform daily activities.
Stroke survivors often complain of vision or perception issues. Problems with sight generally affect the weakened side.
During stroke recovery, some seniors may have difficulty understanding speech or written text. While the person may know what they want to say, they may not have the ability to find the words to speak or write it.
Problems with thinking, memory, learning, attention, and other mental activities are often more difficult for seniors who have suffered a stroke. These individuals may have trouble following instructions, may seem confused, or have difficulty keeping track of the time and date.
Dysphagia is a disorder characterized by difficulty swallowing. After a stroke, some seniors need to take extra care to avoid breathing in food (aspiration) when trying to swallow food and drink. Food can become trapped in areas of the mouth unknowingly if the tongue is affected by the stroke.
It’s not uncommon for seniors who have had strokes to be depressed. While a little sadness after the fact is normal, developing a major depressive disorder is not. Depression should be promptly diagnosed and treated.
Stroke recovery can be a lengthy process that many senior citizens never fully recuperate from. Once the person has been stabilized, the main goal is to restore proper blood flow to the brain and minimize pressure. It’s also important to find ways to reduce the risk factors for a stroke to prevent a reoccurrence. Seniors should begin the recovery process as soon as possible to increase their chances of regaining full or near full brain and body function.
Approximately five to six weeks into stroke recovery, most patients will undergo inpatient or outpatient therapy. Physical therapy may take place several times a week to help the senior regain physical function. These weeks are some of the most intensive and can make a drastic impact on long-term recovery. Most seniors will see an improvement by three months and should continue to improve thereafter. If the brain stem was damaged during the stroke, it could take up to a year or longer to recover.
The majority of improvements following a stroke occur within the first six months. As the months progress, seniors may find that they are regaining more and more function, although more slowly than in the first initial months. However, a stroke survivor’s ability to continue improving will heavily depend on their individual effort and support from family and caregivers.
Of course, stroke recovery doesn’t come without challenges. Recovering from a stroke requires time, dedication, and hard work, and many seniors have a hard time staying motivated. A lack of interest, concern, or emotional response can stop the recovery process in its tracks. Depression is another barrier that may affect stroke survivors.
Stroke can cause a variety of disabilities that make it difficult for seniors to properly care for themselves. Paralysis, problems with cognitive function, and emotional disturbances can all affect a person’s ability to care for himself. This is why many families choose to involve health professionals.
In-Home Care and Stroke Recovery
Not rushing recovery is key for success. While it’s perfectly normal for seniors to want to get back to living independently, having help at home can make a significant impact on a person’s overall health and wellbeing after a stroke.
Caregivers play a critical role in post-stroke recovery starting from day one. After a stroke, many seniors will need assistance completing activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, eating, and performing basic hygiene. In-home care should always be provided with the utmost respect for the individual and their desired level of independence. Going from being independent to relying on others for care can be a major adjustment.
Life post-stroke isn’t easy for anyone at any age. We don’t like watching our loved ones struggle, and fortunately, we don’t have to. Serving Montgomery County, Howard County, Prince George’s County, and D.C., Comfort Home Care offers professional in-home care for stroke patients in recovery. Contact us today to schedule an in-home care evaluation to determine the level of care needed to maximize safety and comfort.
You might also find our Free Guide to Understanding Strokes and Recovery a useful resource.