Senior Recovery from Stroke

Every year in the U.S., approximately 795,000 people have strokes. Strokes are the third leading cause of death and are the leading cause of permanent disability. Understanding how to recognize a stroke and knowing what steps to take to ease recovery can help to prevent death and mitigate the degree of disability following a stroke.

Recognizing Stroke Symptoms

The risk of having a stroke nearly doubles every 10 years after the age of 55. Understanding some basic facts about strokes can help seniors and their family members to react quickly if an attack occurs. A quick reaction following a stroke is a crucial factor in recovery.

The acronym “FAST” can help with remembering stroke symptoms and response. The acronym was developed in 1998 to assist with ambulance staff training.

Fast stands for:

  • Facial drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulties
  • Time

The idea is that if a patient exhibits signs of facial drooping, an inability to raise one or both arms, or trouble speaking or pronouncing words, medical attention should be sought in a timely manner.

Beginning Stroke Recovery

Beginning rehabilitation quickly after a stroke can help a patient to regain lost functionality. However, physicians must first stabilize the condition and take action to prevent subsequent strokes and complications. Stroke rehabilitation often begins as soon as 24 hours after the stroke, while the patient is still in the hospital.

Rehabilitation Settings

Where rehabilitation will take place varies depending on the severity of the stroke and the aftereffects of the stroke. Home-based programs provide the greatest degree of flexibility and comfort, but may not be realistic for those that would benefit from specialized equipment and structured programs.

Outpatient units are often recommended for patients that require rehabilitative exercises and therapy, but can function with some degree of autonomy. Inpatient units help patients that require a few weeks or months of intensive therapy to regain motor skills and abilities. A skilled nursing facility may be the best place for rehabilitation if a patient requires a higher degree of assistance throughout recovery.

Emotional and Mental Recovery from Stroke

The physical effects of a stroke are the most visible, but the emotional and mental recovery process can be just as difficult as the physical therapy. Patients may benefit from seeing a counselor or occupational therapist. Since social factors have a strong influence on emotional state and motivation to recover, patients may also benefit from increased social interaction and connection.

How Long Does Stroke Recovery Take?

Patients usually see the biggest recovery gains in the three to four months following a stroke. However, patients may continue to make small advances for up to two years following a stroke. In some cases, patients may make a full recovery very quickly when the right steps are taken and rehabilitation starts early.