Living with stroke


Some stroke survivors may experience a disability following stroke. The level of seriousness and permanence of this disability will depend on which part of the brain has been injured and how severely it has been affected.

Common stroke disabilities

  • Problems relating to paralysis or movement
  • Problems with speech or understanding language
  • Thinking and memory difficulties
  • Sensory disturbances eg visual problems
  • Emotional problems

Rehabilitation support, which may vary between countries, may be available to help a patient adjust to life after stroke.

If available, rehabilitation may involve the skills of a multidisciplinary team of professionals, and generally begins when the patient’s condition has stabilised after the stroke.

Some of the specialists who may be involved in rehabilitation

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Physiotherapists
  • Speech and language therapists
  • Dieticians
  • Clinical psychologists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Counsellors
  • Social workers

Stroke affects people in different ways. Generally, the goal of rehabilitation is to help stroke patients gain back as much independence as possible. Different countries may have different approaches to rehabilitation, which may involve some of the activities listed below.

Rehabilitation may involve following examples

Strengthening limbs that have been paralysed or seriously weakened by stroke Motion exercises
Relearning skills that have been lost Reading
Language skills
Learning new skills to overcome any difficulties caused by stroke Dressing with one hand
Coping with the frustration of having mental difficulties
Adapting to equipment that might be used to manage any permanent disabilities Walking using a walking frame
Using an adapter to operate the taps on the sink and bath

For many people in this age group, returning to work is a major concern, but whether or not this happens will depend on the individual’s level of recovery and the type of job they do.Approximately a quarter of all strokes occur in people aged under 65 years.

Their doctor can help decide when, or if, the person is well enough to return to work.

Whether a person can drive again after a stroke will depend on their level of recovery and will involve discussion with their doctor.

Patients should not despair if:

  • their recovery rate is slower than they would have hoped, and if
  • they are unable to regain their previous abilities.

Their aim should be to concentrate on what they are able to achieve and to enjoy the best quality of life possible after stroke.

“Positive thinking is the key to my recovery from stroke. I was determined to get there, even when rehabilitation seemed to be frustratingly slow. My advice to other people in the same situation is to believe you can do it and make yourself do it, but to also be patient.”

Jennifer, aged 53 years.

How family and friends can help

Support from family and friends is invaluable during rehabilitation.

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How family and friends can help stroke survivors

  • Ensure they keep a healthy routine of sleep, diet and appropriate exercise
  • Help them to stay positive
  • Encourage them to look forward to what they want to achieve
  • Don’t let them dwell on the past
  • If they have been taught tasks, encourage them to practice them
  • Reduce the risk of withdrawal and isolation by encouraging them to spend time with others
  • Adapt your behaviour to their needs, e.g. if their hearing has been affected you may need to speak more slowly, enhance the clarity of your voice and adjust its volume, as required

References

  1. The European Stroke Initiative. Stroke Facts.
  2. World Health Organization et al. Avoiding Heart Attacks and Strokes. Don’t be a victim. Protect yourself.
  3. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Post-Stroke Rehabilitation Fact Sheet.
  4. The Stroke Association. Life After Stroke
  5. The European Stroke Initiative. Stroke Facts slideshow.
  6. The Stroke Association. When a stroke happens
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stroke Facts and Statistics