The time following a stroke can be a confusing, scary time. Your loved one is safe, but they will have a long way to go before they return to normal. Rehabilitation therapy is the next step, but what does that entail? Here’s what you can expect to happen during your loved one’s recovery.
Improving Mobility Starts with the Brain
The side effects of strokes varies widely, but many patients need to recover from some form of movement impairment. It may seem obvious to start with the body to overcome movement impairment, but really, the brain is the star here. By strengthening the brain, rehab exercises can trigger the brain to rewire itself and overcome impairments. This is known as neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity requires repetition. Your brain needs practice to improve, so therapists focus on providing ways to practice, even at home. The more practice your loved one gets, the better they will become at moving again.
Progress Will Slow, but It Won’t Stop
After a stroke, recover will not remain constant. There are many ups and downs in recovery, so it is important not to be discouraged by declines. About 3 months after the stroke, the recovery rate may slow down. This is called a plateau, and it is a normal part of recovery. Learning how to overcome a plateau is a critical part of recovery.
Plateaus Can Be Overcome
It can be exciting to see your loved one’s hard work paying off and seeing the improvements they make. Recovery tends to ebb and flow, though, which means some weeks may look worse than others. Repetition is necessary to retrain the brain, but at some point, it will get used to the process and recovery will appear to slow.
When a new stimulus is introduced, however, the brain has to work harder to keep up. By constantly challenging your loved one, occupational therapists will encourage them to continue to improve, even if the rate slows.
Eating & Swallowing May Require Help
Dysphagia is a post-stroke side effect that affects the ability to swallow food and beverages. Understanding this side effect is critical, since it can cause choking. Caretakers can help patients and ensure that there is someone on hand who can act if the patient chokes. Therapists can recommend foods and methods of eating to help reduce the effects of dysphagia and protect patients from problems.
Fall Prevention is Key
Movement impairments can make it easy for patients to lose their balance and fall. To help avoid these dangerous accidents, it is important to equip their home with grab rails, non-slip mats, and other equipment, such as shower transfer benches. Mobility devices such as canes and walkers can also stabilize a stroke patient.
Outbursts of Emotion are Normal
It can be unsettling or even scary to see your loved one expressing outbursts of unexpected emotions, but this is not uncommon. If the stroke affected the emotional centers of the brain, it is possible that a condition called emotional lability can manifest. This is often misdiagnosed for post-stroke depression or anxiety, but there is help out there. Stroke patients and their loved ones can find support groups to help them cope with these new emotions.
Resilience & Persistence Are Necessary
It can be hard to maintain an optimistic outlook in the face of all the challenges ahead, but it is critical to maintain a can-do outlook. Accepting the limits other place on your loved one can damage their recovery, and they may not achieve as complete a recovery as they could have. Focus on the improvements and keep looking forward.
Our Fairfield County long-term rehabilitation center uses state-of-the-art treatments and therapies from our highly trained staff to support stoke patients through every step of their recovery. At King Street Rehab, we believe in your loved one’s ability to recover, and we are committed to meeting their needs and helping them reach their recovery goals. Schedule a tour of our facilities and discover how we can assist your loved one.
Contact our team today! Call (914) 937-5800 to learn more.