Your Loved One Had a Stroke, Now What?
No one ever wants to hear the word “stroke” or “it appears you may have had a stroke.”
These are scary words, especially if you are the daughter of a loved one who had the “possible” stroke while out of state visiting their sister.
That is exactly how my family’s stroke “journey” began. My mother was in another state visiting her sister and they had been out and about all day. I was back home with my family on a rainy Saturday evening when I got a call from my aunt saying they were in the ER and not sure what was happening. My aunt is a nurse so she began to tell me what happened, describing how my mother became weak and unable to move. They were at some kind of crafting show and had been on their feet all day. They called the ambulance and when they arrived at the ER called me.
The first words were, “Don’t worry.” Yeah right! I began to ask questions about what they were doing. My mother has a defibrillator and could not have an MRI to check her brain so we were left to have a CT scan. I was running through all the things that could have happened.
Helpless was what I felt! It had been a rough year already since we lost my dad suddenly only five months before and my cousin, who was only 40, from a brain tumor only the month prior and now this! It had to be a dream, no more like a nightmare, and stroke kept coming back to my brain over and over. I knew I had to get there.
When I made it to the hospital, I saw my mother laying in the bed, not able to move parts of her body. Her eyes were bouncing back and forth with nystagmus (involuntary repetitive movement), which she didn’t have before. I knew the brain was affected. There were other symptoms, weakness on one side and her speak was a little slurred. Luckily it was a “minor” stroke. Don’t get me wrong, no stroke is minor but I knew recovery “should” be good. I’m a speech therapist and have run rehabilitation departments in many settings so I have seen strokes and really involved strokes!
There were things the hospital didn’t take as serious as I did. Nothing showed up on her CT scan but that is not unusual, it is not as sensitive as an MRI. All the clinical signs were there and, oh by the way, I was working with one of the top neurologists in the country at the time so I had an advocate and medical support with me all the way.
She was stable after a couple of days and we got her home to her neurologist and sure enough all the clinical signs pointed to a stroke. Next came outpatient therapy. She had physical therapy to address the weakness on one side of her body and balance. The type of stroke my mother experienced affected her balance.
We were lucky that it wasn’t worse. Now that she has had a stroke, she is at a higher risk to have another one. The neurologist and her internal medicine doctor, even eight years later, continue to monitor this risk.
On May 4, 2016 the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association released new recommendations, urging stroke patients to receive treatment in an inpatient rehabilitation facility “whenever possible,” unless they have a condition that would require more skilled nursing care.
The guidelines were published in Stroke, with an emphasis on a “structured” program that also focuses on preventing falls. Other recommendations include “intense” tasks related to any mobility and training to help people relearn or improve the task after the stroke. Programs like speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy are among the care provided through rehabilitation.
These are the first guidelines that specifically focus on rehabilitation. Now what? Rehabilitation that’s what. As seen in the stroke guidelines, there are specific recommendations but rehabilitation at any and all levels is the key.
As I said we were lucky, but my mother participated in rehabilitation and I was her advocate throughout the process. If you are faced with the “Now what?” question and don’t know where to turn, Cariloop and your own Cariloop coach, who is a licensed/certified healthcare professional, can be there for you.
By: Jeryn Laengrich, MS, CCC/SLP