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Dealing with life after a stroke

Dealing with life after a stroke

A stroke is a sudden and shocking life-threatening medical condition which can change your life in seconds. Most people who have suffered a stroke will experience some level of emotional or physical change afterwards, ranging from balance problems to behavioural changes, paralysis or even bladder issues.

Thankfully, help and support are available to aid any of these changes. Whilst some of the more serious after-effects cannot be reversed, steps can be followed to ensure your quality of life is improved.

Emotional changes



In the period following a stroke, it is normal to experience feelings of grief, anxiety or low mood. It is important to let your GP know as soon as possible, so emotional support can be provided.

The most common emotions present afterwards are frustration and anger. It’s natural to experience frustration if you’re unable to communicate as easily or physically able to do what you were previously. With frustration, anger too may appear. In such circumstances, your doctor may encourage you to go on walks or sign up for a gym membership. Exercise and gym classes can be a vital outlet for negative energy. Even something as small as chair-based exercises can help to improve self-confidence.

You will likely be encouraged to talk with friends or family. A support network can help you to process your feelings. Communicating with people you know may also be a lot easier.

For anxiety or a panic attack



Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) may be prescribed, as well as medication or mindfulness.

Depression



If you find you’re avoiding people or situations, feeling hopeless, overeating or oversleeping, you may be experiencing symptoms of depression. For this, talk to your stroke nurse or GP, who will likely recommend talking therapies, CBT or medication (such as antidepressants).

Suicidal thoughts



If any suicidal thoughts occur, this is classified as a mental health emergency. Call 999 immediately or contact your GP, who can refer you to a crisis team, such as the Samaritans.

Behavioral changes



Due to brain cognition being affected during a stroke, stroke victims can see behavioural changes. These can be anything from minor irritability and impatience to aggression, losing inhibitions and becoming more reckless.

The most common recommendation for this is CBT. CBT is will help you to notice your behaviour and find out what your triggers are. Therapy also helps with neuroplasticity, which aids in re-wiring the brain.
If part of the brain that supports language is damaged by a stroke, this can cause communication issues.

Around two-thirds of people have communication problems directly after a stroke, and around a third will have long-term difficulties.

These can have a devastating effect on relationships with friends and family members, as well as partners and employers. Many people feel isolated and sometimes lose friendships due to avoiding social situations.

To improve communication after a stroke, GPs recommend the maintenance of your social media, memory tests, speech and language therapy, as well as rehabilitation and/or re-training of the brain. There is also technology designed to help with communication (such as communication cards or voice output communication aids)

Knowing help is offered can be very comforting. However, speak with your GP to know which help will work directly for you.