An episode of Stroke can be debilitating, or life-changing. Depending on how soon medical help was provided after the attack, the extent of brain tissue damage can be major or minor, permanent or temporary.
That is why; once you reach the hospital, the doctors’ immediate priorities are to:
Stabilize your medical condition: To ensure all your vital parameters are normalized.
Control life-threatening conditions: To ensure your other health conditions combined with the stroke do not pose a fatality-risk. Heart and vascular ailments, diabetes, and any other condition must be brought to complete control.
Prevent another stroke: This requires a major and immediate change in lifestyle. The patient must quit smoking completely, drastically cut down alcohol consumption, switch to a low-salt, low cholesterol diet, exercise regularly in order to maintain weight, and also manage stress better through yoga, meditation, etc.
Limit stroke-related complications: A stroke attack brings its own consequences and complications. These must be limited or reversed to whatever extent possible. This is what Stroke Rehabilitation achieves.
Also Read: What is a stroke?
Why is Stroke Rehabilitation required?
Victims of stroke go through various changes and conditions. Some of them are:
Motor skills: The most prominent effect of a stroke is a paralysis or muscle weakness in one side of the body. The patient may also suffer from muscle spasms. A physical therapist will teach the patient various exercises that help strengthen muscles and improve balance. The patient will also need to use a walking stick or walker going forward.
Speech: The patient may have trouble speaking clearly, may struggle to find the right words, frame sentences properly, or speak coherently. A speech therapist will train the patient on how to speak clearly and coherently.
Sensory skills: The ability to correctly sense heat, cold, and temperature changes may be temporarily lost. The person may find temperature changes painful. This can be overcome by therapy.
Cognitive skills: The person’s thinking, reasoning, and judgement may be affected now. He/she may have trouble remembering simple details, manage day-to-day tasks, and take correct decisions. He/she may make reckless decisions and have trouble expressing or controlling emotions. Occupational therapists will help the patient overcome these conditions and resume a normal life over time.
Bladder and bowel control: The patient may not have control or awareness on when to go. Family members or caregivers, and the patient, will be trained on how to overcome this, using certain aids.
Swallowing: The person may find swallowing food difficult or painful and may even choke on food. A nutritionist will devise a diet plan that incorporates more liquid or semi-solid food in the diet.
Emotional Health: The person may become more withdrawn and introverted than before. Coping with various changes may also make him/her more depressed. A psychiatrist or counsellor will work closely with the patient to help overcome this.
Pain, numbness, tingling: The person may experience pain while moving, numbness when resting in one position for a long, and strange tingling sensations from time to time. All these can be overcome through medications and physiotherapy.
Trouble sleeping: A sleep therapist can help the patient overcome this.
Fatigue: Fatigue is a result of one or more of the above conditions. By controlling or reducing these conditions, fatigue is also reduced over time.
When does Stroke Rehabilitation start?
Rehabilitation starts the moment a patient is taken to the hospital after a stroke attack. Large and reputed hospitals have a separate Rehabilitation unit to handle this while smaller hospitals refer patients to hospitals that specialize in this (in-patient or out-patient units). Once the patient is discharged, the rehabilitation process continues at home. Family members and caregivers of the patient are closely involved in this. The home may require small modifications and renovations to factor in the patient’s challenges.
The rehabilitation process is managed by various therapists, specialist doctors, and rehabilitation nurses who have enough experience in this area. In addition to the therapists listed earlier, the rehabilitation program may include social workers who will connect the patient to financial resources, and recreation therapists who will help the patient reconnect with hobbies and activities he/she used to enjoy before.
Duration and outcomes of Stroke Rehabilitation
Recovering from a stroke is a long-term program, so it requires patience, hard work, and commitment on the part of the patient and caregivers. It may take a few months for some patients to recover most of their faculties while for some, it may take up to 1.5 to 2 years to recover fully and get back to a normal life.
The outcome of the program is dependent on how much brain damage has occurred, how soon did the recovery start, how good is the patient’s motivation and ability to work towards recovery, the age of the patient and whether he/she has other medical problems that can affect recovery.
Many stroke patients can resume normal life
While all the above information may look ominous, in reality many stroke patients get back to a normal life within a few months to a year. Stroke Rehabilitation is a very specialized and sophisticated field today with several decades of research and manned by various therapists or specialists as explained earlier. Reputed hospitals offer all these under one roof and strive to add value at every step.
So, if you or any of your dear ones has just suffered an episode of stroke, do not panic. Contact a reputed hospital that will counsel you on rehabilitation and design a program to help you resume a normal life at the earliest. Thousands of stroke victims have overcome the condition in the past and continue to do so every year, worldwide. Rest assured, you or your loved one shall also make it through.
Kauvery Hospital is globally known for its multidisciplinary services at all its Centers of Excellence, and for its comprehensive, Avant-Grade technology, especially in diagnostics and remedial care in heart diseases, transplantation, vascular and neurosciences medicine. Located in the heart of Trichy (Tennur, Royal Road and Alexandria Road (Cantonment), Chennai, Hosur and Salem, the hospital also renders adult and pediatric trauma care.