The experience of having a stroke is terrifying in the moment – and yet the unknown of what will happen afterwards can be just as terrifying. In this blog we’ll give you some clarity on what to expect, and some starting points on how to begin your journey to recovery.
In the Hospital
Many people spend anywhere from a day or two to several weeks or months in an inpatient hospital following a stroke, depending on its severity and how quickly it was able to be treated. Symptoms during this time can include:
- Aphasia (loss of language after a stroke),
- Cognitive challenges (difficulties with memory, attention. and reasoning), swallowing difficulties (also known as “dysphagia”),
- Physical components ranging from one-sided weakness to paralysis to difficulty maintaining consciousness or the breathing cycle.
Depending on these symptoms and any other medical conditions, a person may be immediately discharged after a more mild stroke, or may need to spend more time inpatient to receive more intensive care (think traditional hospital room with frequent nursing check-ins and doctors rounding).
Some people are fortunate and can go straight home from the hospital. This again depends on how severe the stroke was, and what types of symptoms they are dealing with. For those who still require more care, but are now well enough to leave the inpatient hospital, there are several options, on which the medical team will consult with the family to find the best fit:
- Long-term Acute Care Facility – this type of facility is equipped to deal with just about any medical condition, from feeding tubes to physical disabilities. At an “LTAC” as they are often called, you can spend anywhere from a few weeks to a few months getting intensive therapy daily and getting the medical support needed.
- Skilled Nursing Facility – these facilities are not only for the elderly! They deal with slightly less intense medical needs, but can still support some medical issues and are great for folks who need a lot of physical support. They also offer extensive therapy, helping you or your loved one get back on their feet quickly. Stays here range in length from a few weeks to longer periods of months or even years if appropriate for the situation.
- Home Healthcare – for some, having a nurse and/or other therapists come visit them in the home is the most appropriate situation. The frequency of these visits depends on the severity of the situation (and unfortunately sometimes on cost and insurance coverage). This situation is appropriate for someone who either is able to be more or less independent, or has family around who can help them with any physical or medical issues they may have. Many types of therapists (such as speech, occupational, and physical therapists) can also deliver frequent therapy in-home (usually this is more common if it is extremely difficulty for the person to leave their house and cannot attend outpatient therapy).
Even if someone goes straight home from the hospital, they may need to receive additional, outpatient therapy. This means that the person is medically safe to be at home without additional care, but does still need further treatment to get them back to their previous status. There are several types of outpatient therapy that may be appropriate after a stroke:
- Speech and Language Therapy – speech pathologists work with stroke survivors to get them back up and running with their speech (how easy it is to understand what they are saying), language (both using it and understanding it in spoken and written form), and cognition (being able to pay attention, remember both long-past events and recent occurrences, and make appropriate social and life judgments). They also can help with swallowing therapy.
- Occupational Therapy – occupational therapists work with stroke survivors on a huge range of issues, ranging from fine-motor skills to activities of daily living, to making sure that they are functional both at home and in the community, providing adaptive supports where appropriate. In some regions they may also help with swallowing therapy.
- Physical Therapy – physical therapists help you to get back the use of any affected limbs, and help you to make sure that you are staying safe physically during your recovery. They also can consult on any necessary tools, such as a cane or brace, that might be effective in moving your physical recovery forward.
- Talk Therapy/Psychological Therapy – in a recent post, we talked about the often overlooked emotional aspects of life with a communication disorder. It is key after a stroke not to ignore your emotional needs – they are often just as important if not more important than your other rehabilitation needs. Check out the post above for a few starting points.
- Frequent Doctor Check-Ins – it will be important after a stroke to monitor your medical health. Whether it’s getting to the bottom of the cause of the stroke, or following up on pre-existing medical conditions that may put you at risk for another stroke, it is very important to work closely with your doctors to make sure that you are doing everything possible to keep up your health.
Don’t Go it Alone
The recovery process after a stroke is often a long, hard road. But stay with it! It’s important to reach out and find the resources that you need to continue to persevere.
- Support Groups – there is nothing like hearing from someone who has experienced the same thing you are experiencing to motivate you to keep on keeping on. Support groups can take the form of weekly meetings, group therapy, or even online support forums. Check out our support group blog for more ideas.
- Caregivers – it’s not just the person who had the stroke who is affected by it – spouses, children, family members, and friends are affected by the stroke that one person experienced. It’s important to take care of yourself as a caregiver, too. Try these 5 tips for caregivers.