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What to Expect After a Stroke

After a stroke, you can't expect life to be exactly the same as before. When a member of your family goes through this health scare, the road to recovery isn't easy. It takes a long time for people to get back to their prior level of independence and productivity, and there may be some major physical, cognitive, and emotional changes to adjust to. However, this doesn't mean that returning to a good level of health is impossible.

According to the National Stroke Association, what happens following a stroke varies:
• 10 percent of stroke survivors recover almost completely.
• 25 percent recover with minor impairments.
• 40 percent experience moderate to severe impairments that require special care.
• 10 percent require care in a nursing home or other long-term facility.
It's impossible to tell which recovery group your loved one will fall into. Stroke recovery and its aftereffects depend on several factors, including:
• Amount of damage to the brain.
• Skill on the part of the rehabilitation team.
• Cooperation of family and friends.
• Timing of rehabilitation (it's preferable to start stroke rehab as soon as possible).
Stroke survivors will experience a variety of changes in three categories: physical, cognitive, and emotional.
Physical Effects

After a stroke, the physical effects will be the most immediately obvious. Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body (on the opposite side from the area of the brain where the stroke occurred) is common. Others poststroke effects include muscle spasticity or stiffness; balance and coordination issues; pain, numbness, or other strange physical sensations; bowel- or bladder-control issues; and fatigue. Some of these effects can be debilitating to an extent that the person needs regular help performing day-to-day tasks, while others can be overcome in time.

Cognitive Effects

The cognitive effects of a stroke can cause stress for survivors and their families. Dementia and memory problems are two of the most common aftereffects, sometimes leading to significant memory loss, confusion, and difficulty thinking. Stroke survivors may have difficulty expressing themselves, understanding speech, and reading or writing, leading to more confusion and frustration.

Emotional Effects

Because a stroke can affect different parts of the brain, emotional effects are common and often more difficult to detect and handle than physical or cognitive issues. Depression and associated emotional issues may show up, including feelings of anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety, fear, sense of loss, and hopelessness. All these feelings can vary in intensity.

Be Supportive During Rehab?

Rehab takes different forms depending on the variety and level of present aftereffects. If overall changes are not severe, the survivor may receive care at home or spend time at outpatient care facilities. If effects are more severe, it is worth considering a long-term care facility or a hospital program, such as an acute care facility or rehabilitation hospital.

Your support will be such a huge factor for your loved one. You need to be patient and available to spend time with them. Even if you're not doing chores or care duties, you'll still make a difference by simply being there. Encourage a healthy diet and promote regular rehab exercise, if possible, and ensure all medication and physical therapy treatments are administered regularly and on time. Perhaps most important of all is to help your loved one regain some independence and feel like a present, contributing part of the family again.

Poststroke recovery can be a difficult and confusing time for the patient and his or her family. Know that change is inevitable, and it's up to you to listen to the medical professionals and provide support in any way you can.

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