By C.Y Moh
Occupational Therapist, SSL (PJ) Stroke Rehabilitation Centre
Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in our population. Stroke can affect every aspect of life, not only physical but also psychological, behavioural and social functioning.
The effects of stroke, which included a sudden disability to walk, talk and function like normal can cause feelings of loss, fear, grief, anger and depress. What’s most shocking to patients is how stroke can affect their daily routine. They find themselves unable to do the simplest tasks such as hold a spoon or pencil, button a shirt or comb their hair.
Having a stroke will affect the whole family. Family members will need to deal with the changes in their routine, as they adopt and/or adapt the role of caregiver. Living with a stroke survivor who is angry, guilty and frustrated will have a deep impact on the entire family.
Road to recovery
Is it possible to recover from stroke? The answer is ‘yes’ for most stroke survivors but it depends on the severity of the brain damage and the attitude of stroke survivors themselves.
Although significant recovery occurs best within the first 6 months to a year after a stroke, research has shown that there are still possibilities of recovery some years after stroke. Recovery from stroke is an ongoing and life long process.
It is crucial for stroke survivors and their family to know that there is always hope. The most important step is not to give up easily and think positively. They need to know that people suffering from stroke are not victims, but lucky survivors!
Family and caregivers play an important role in understanding stroke survivors’ feelings and needs, supporting and helping them to cope with the shock and fear. The family needs to help them find their sense of belonging, completeness and value of life. Stroke survivors need to be connected to their families more than ever.
It is essential to start rehabilitation as early as possible to promote better recovery. The goal of stroke rehabilitation is to help stroke survivors to be independent in their daily life and restore their normal routine. Through rehabilitation, they relearn the basic activities of daily living skills such as dressing, eating, toileting, walking etc.
Rehabilitation normally begins in hospital and needs to be continued after being discharged from hospital. Stroke rehabilitation can take months to years, depending on the severity of the impairments.
During all phases of rehabilitation and recovery, the stroke survivors and family members are encouraged to work with a team of professionals from different specialties to meet their individual needs. A stroke rehabilitation team includes medical doctor, nurse, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, speech therapist, clinical psychologist and medical social worker.
Preventing a second stroke
Preventing another stroke attack is often a main concern for stroke survivors, as their chances of getting a second stroke are higher compared to normal persons. However, simple lifestyle changes can greatly reduce the possibility of a getting second stroke. Stroke survivors need to monitor their blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, stop smoking or drinking, eat healthily and exercise regularly.
Falls are common after stroke, due to poor balance, muscle weakness, sensory loss, visual disturbances and changes in mental function. Falls can impact stroke survivors in their recovery progress. A patient who has experienced a fall may tend to walk less and eventually do not want to go out.
Fall prevention is very important for stroke patients after discharge from hospital. Awareness of fall risks at home is crucial to prevent falls. Home modifications may be necessary.
Life after stroke is challenging, but care, love, understanding and support from family members can make a difference to stroke survivors. Remember, there is always hope!
SSL Stroke Rehabilitation Centre is a non-profit organisation devoted to the cause of delivering medical rehabilitation services to the community especially to the underprivileged. The rehabilitation team deals with each individual’s need to help improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. For more details, please visit www.sausenglum.com.my or email firstname.lastname@example.org