Recovery from a stroke can be varied and multifaceted.
According to the National Institute on Aging per the NIH, “stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, and causes more serious long-term disabilities than any other disease“. Having a stroke can be such a varied experience. A person may have a severe stroke, or not even be aware that they had a stroke. Coming home after having even a mild stroke can present many different challenges: memory issues, decreased safety awareness, swallowing difficulties, balance challenges, weakness with self care, difficulty with driving, etc. I have frequently seen patients who have had a stroke to struggle with recognizing their new limitations. Being prepared with correct equipment, a safe environment, and appropriate support can lead to improved recovery and reduced need for returning to the hospital.
Check out this link to measure yourself, your loved one, or your patient’s risk for stroke. Sometimes an objective measurement can be a motivation to make a positive change!
Home health care can play a vital role in your recovery after having a stroke.
Because there are many different systems that can be affected by a stroke, your need for specialized care may be multiplied. You may need clinicians to monitor your vitals, educate and assist with medications, guide safe mobility and activity progression, monitor your speech and swallowing, assess your vision and memory, instruct on self care and daily activities, help you with getting equipment, ensure you are following precautions, and the list goes on. The information and adjustments that may need to take place can be overwhelming. However, not following the instructions can lead to further health issues, and even an increased risk for another stroke.
Your recovery may include cardiovascular exercise (AHA, 2019), balance exercises, walking (if it’s appropriate), electric stimulation to weakened muscles, and general strengthening exercises. Often, people will need practise and exercise to perform dressing, bathing, cooking, and cleaning. Many people also need memory exercises, help with speech, and safety with eating/swallowing. It may be overwhelming to have multiple specialists work with you, but having the appropriate exercises and safety parameters in place is vital to recovery!
General tips that may help you with your home recovery after experiencing a stroke:
Your home care team will make many recommendations for your safety: furniture set up, equipment, medications, food, exercise, stress level, activities, etc. Please try to follow their input as much as you can. These adjustments will improve your safety and maximize your recovery.
Keep your new self care instructions and precautions handy. Put them on the refrigerator with a magnet. Keep them in a place that you will see often, and read and review them daily until you are familiar with them.
Have an updated list of medication instructions on the counter. It is imperative to follow your updated medication routine correctly. Keep your medications handy and organized.
Keep items you will use daily, on the counter, where you can access them without reaching up high or down low, to minimize pain and increase safety.
Wear soft loose clothing to minimize difficulty of getting dressed and undressed, and for improved ease and safety in the bathroom.
Have a log sheet to record your vitals (use this free one), and monitor them daily at consistent times. This will come in handy to bring with you to your follow up appointments. It is important to keep track of your blood pressure and communicate with your health care team if there are issues.
Check out this link for a blood pressure cuff you can use at home: (affiliate link)
Use a daily activity log (get a free one by subscribing to the blog!) to keep a record of performing your exercises. Your recovery will be most efficient if you follow your program faithfully.
Use a timer or stopwatch to time your exercise or walks: (affiliate link)
Ask your physician or clinicians for specific dietary instructions, and if there are any foods that may interfere with your medications.
Take precaution with extreme temperatures. Sitting in the hot sun, a jacuzzi, or a long, hot shower may increase your heart rate and your blood pressure.
Choose a good supportive chair. A firm chair with arms provides a place that you can push up from to stand, is good for safety if your balance is weak, and supports your back. Rocky recliners, ‘smooshy’ seats, and low couches can make it challenging to get up. If your chair is low, you could place a firm cushion on the seat to raise it up a bit. A couple of inches in height can make a huge difference in effort for a transfer!
Check out this firm seat cushion that could help with ease of transfers if your chair is low: (affiliate link)
Ask your therapists to ensure you have all the equipment you need to be safe: cane, bath seat, devices to help if you have weakness in your hand or foot, good exercise programs, reachers, jar openers, special utensils… whatever your needs may be.
Don’t get discouraged! Remember that recovery takes time. Whether your stroke is recent, or if it has been a while, exercise regularly leads to improvements in health and function!
CLINICIANS: I have added a printable handout for Stroke Recovery on my PREMIUM RESOURCES PAGE! It is made to be printed in B/W, easy to understand and read, with space to add notes for your patient.
What tips do you include for recovery from a stroke? What have you found to be most challenging about this type of recovery? I would love to hear from you! Subscribe to my email for weekly tips and health information for senior care and senior health.