The effects of a stroke are usually visible and often very dramatic. It can be difficult for the person who had the stroke to face the long effort of recovery. But just as friends and family need to act quickly when they think an older loved one is having a stroke, everyone needs to keep working after the person has come out of the hospital. The good news is that at some point after hospital treatment, it may be possible for a person who has had a stroke to continue rehabilitation and receive stroke care at home.

There are several distinct signs that an older loved one is having a stroke. Always be alert to stroke if your older loved one experiences any of these symptoms quite suddenly: sudden loss of balance, sudden severe headache without a known cause, sudden trouble seeing from one or both eyes, slurred or difficult-to-understand speech, numbness, weakness, or drooping in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body, or sudden confusion.

In the hospital, the person’s doctor will determine whether the symptoms have actually been caused by a stroke or by some other condition such as a brain tumor or a drug reaction, what kind of stroke it was, and what emergency treatments will be most effective. The Mayo Clinic describes a wide array of these emergency procedures very clearly on their stroke diagnosis and treatment page.

What Happens After a Stroke

A stroke affects movement and sensation on the opposite side of the body from the side of the brain that was affected. If the right side of the brain was affected, the left side of the body may show it; if the left side of the brain, the right side of the body. In addition, damage on the left side of the brain may cause difficulty with speech or language.

A stroke survivor will probably experience fatigue, weakness on one side of the body, pain, and sleep disruption. Foot drop, difficulty picking up the front of the foot, is also common. A stroke can also cause problems with balance, vision, swallowing, spastic movements and continence.

A person who has had a stroke may experience fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, sadness and a sense of loss. These are natural emotional responses to stroke. It can take time to adjust to all that has happened. Other emotional and personality changes can occur because of the physical effects of brain damage caused by the stroke.

A stroke may also cause cognitive changes. Easy, familiar tasks may become difficult. The person may develop memory problems or have difficulty communicating.

Stroke Care Promotes Rehabilitation

With so many potential changes to contend with, a stroke survivor can expect to undergo a rigorous rehabilitation program. It may begin before the person leaves the hospital and continue in a rehabilitation unit of the same hospital, another rehabilitation unit or skilled nursing facility, an outpatient unit, or at home with the support of professional caregivers. (CarePlus provides a 72-hour post-discharge program to help stroke survivors and others transition from a hospitalization.) The goal is to help the person rebuild as much of their life and independence as possible.

However rigorous, a rehabilitation program will take into account the person’s age, overall health, lifestyle, personal priorities, the extent of the disability caused by the stroke, and the availability of loved ones and professional caregivers to help carry out the program.

Depending on the effects, a stroke treatment team may include a neurologist, a doctor trained in brain conditions, a rehabilitation doctor, a nurse, a dietitian, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a recreational therapist, a speech pathologist, a social worker, a case manager to coordinate all of the caregivers. It may also include a psychologist or psychiatrist to help with emotional difficulties and personality changes.

Stroke Care Continues at Home

A stroke survivor and their loved ones will need to evaluate the person’s way of living to ensure physical safety and progress. Some common changes are eating calcium-rich foods and taking calcium supplements to increase bone strength, wearing flat, wide-toed shoes, walking around the house using assistive devices prescribed by a physical therapist instead of using the furniture, recognizing that certain medicines cause drowsiness and taking precautions, and not walking at all when the person feels distracted. These changes all require family and professional support.

The house may need some rearrangement like clearing paths to the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom and removing loose carpets and runners in hallways and stairwells or fastening them with nonskid tape to improve traction. It may be necessary to install assistive devices like a raised toilet seat, a bench in the tub or shower, a hand-held showerhead, and plastic strips that adhere to the floor of a tub or shower and to buy things like long-handled brushes and washing mitts with pockets for soap and electric toothbrushes and razors.

During and after physical therapy, a person who has had a stroke will need to continue with exercise that strengthens leg muscles and restores balance; it may be helpful to have a physical therapist come to the house. An occupational therapist can help the person organize their daily activities and inspect the home before hospital discharge to help arrange it to the loved one’s new needs.

A home caregiver can assist with all of these changes, do things for the stroke survivor that they can’t yet do themselves, help the survivor relearn may activities, and support them in the disciplines that aid recovery, like diet and exercise. Home caregivers can prepare nutritious meals consistent with a doctor’s advice and even help the person eat while they need help, transfer the person from bed to a wheelchair, chair, or bathroom, help them bathe and dress, remind them about medication times and personal safety habits, assist with prescribed motion and strength exercises, monitor for signs of another stroke, provide transportation to medical appointments, do light housekeeping and run errands, help plan and carry out social activities, and just as importantly, offer companionship and emotional support when friends and family can’t be there. (See more about the stroke care services CarePlus Home Health offers here.)

To learn more about home stroke care services available in Montgomery County, MD from CarePlus, call us at 301-740-8870 or use our contact form. We’d be glad to talk with you about your loved one’s situation and develop an individualized plan together.