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What Happens After a Stroke?

Jul 27, 2016

Do you know what happens after a stroke? There are several possible results, depending on the health conditions of the individuals. Stroke occurs due to blood clot in the arteries or bleeding in the brain. The initial treatment for stroke includes medication to break the clot and prevent further damage to the brain. Once the stroke and its risk factors have been put under control, the patient is ready for rehabilitation. In general, the damaged part of the brain, the extent of damage and how soon treatment was administered, all determine the level of disability. If you witness a case of stroke, call an ambulance immediately.

What Happens After a Stroke?

1. Affected Body Functions

Several similar bodily changes happen to most recovering patients after stroke. Muscles weaken and there could be paralysis on one side of the body. This interferes with the patient’s balance, induces tiredness and reduces mobility. Other affected body functions include:

  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Compromised sight
  • Difficulty in bladder and bowel control

2. Problems with Communication

Many patients suffer from communication problem. One of the most common communication problems is aphasia which makes it hard for the patient to speak, write, read or even understand what other people are talking about.

3. Impaired Memory and Thinking

Stroke usually affects short-term memory, but can as well affect concentration, planning, problem solving capacity and even finding the way at a familiar place. If stroke affects the right brain, the patients can suffer from spatial-perceptual problems, impairing their abilities to judge size, distance, speed, position or form. More symptoms include being unable to write or form letters and numbers, being unaware of the inner or outer, left or right side of clothing. The patients even can't tell whether they are standing or sitting.

4. Emotional Changes

What happens after a stroke includes emotional changes. These may include anxiety, depression, irritability and a general lack of emotional control. Stroke occurring in a patient’s frontal brain or the stem of the brain may lead to loss of emotional control. Such a patient can be laughing in one moment and then start crying all of a sudden. This usually happens at night, but can happen during the day especially when a patient spends a lot of time in bed.

5. Changes of Behaviors

A left-sided stroke can make the victim slow, disorganized and over-cautious especially when they are involved in new activities. They may be hesitant and anxious, unlike the way they were prior to the stroke. On the other side, people whose stroke occurred on their right side of the brain are likely to act quickly and impulsively. They may ignore their challenges and try to carry out activities beyond their capabilities.

How to Care for People Who Have Had a Stroke

1. Reduce Risk of Another Stroke

A stroke survivor risks getting another stroke if proper treatment and control is not followed. Help reduce this risk by ensuring that the patient takes medication properly, exercises and consults the doctor regularly.

2. Get the Facts Right

When a loved one has had stroke, it is best to find out what happens after a stroke by talking to the doctors. Ask about the prescribed medications and their effects, necessary home adjustments to accommodate the recovering patient.

3. Learn the Factors That Determine Recovery

While every stroke is different, some factors determine recovery. These include:

  • Location of the stroke in the brain
  • Extent of brain damage
  • Patient’s state of health prior to stroke
  • Patient’s motivation
  • Support by caregivers

Depending on the above factors, recovery may take a shorter or longer time. Many patients achieve substantial recovery within 3 to 4 months after the stroke. For others, recovery may continue for up to two years.

4. Watch for Signs That Physical Therapy Is Required

If you are taking care of a stroke survivor, consult a therapist if you notice one or more of the following:

  • Difficulty in movement
  • Lack of balance leading to falls
  • Inability to take part in social activities
  • Inability to walk for more than six minutes nonstop

5. Seek Medical Advice About Falls

Falls are common following a stroke. However, you should get any resultant injuries treated. In case the stroke survivor falls more than twice in 6 months, consult the doctor or physical therapist as soon as possible.

6. Monitor Progress of Recovery

FIMS (Functional Independence Measure Score) is a progress monitoring system to determine the amount of therapy required. The system considers weekly functional gains including mobility, communication and living skills.

7. Get Depression Treated

Around 30 to 50 percent of recovering patients will suffer from depression at some point during recovery. Because depression can affect recovery, consult a doctor when you notice the first signs of depression, such as sense of hopelessness, loss of interest in former hobbies, changes in appetite and sleep. 

8. Join Support Groups

What happens after a stroke can cause a lot of stress for both the patient and the caregiver, hence you may need some emotional support and experience-sharing from the people with similar problems. Keep in touch with social workers so you can be introduced to relevant support groups.

9. Find Out About Insurance Coverage

It is important to familiarize yourself with the available insurance coverage. This will help you prepare for what is ahead. You can get this information from the doctor, social worker or case manager. Your patient’s response to therapy will determine if Medicare coverage will be extended. If the patient either improves or deteriorates between sessions, further rehabilitation therapy may be provided under Medicare coverage.

10. Don’t Neglect Yourself

Take care of yourself so that you can continue taking care of your loved one. Eat healthy meals, exercise and take time off from care-giving by requesting a friend or family member to stand in for you.