Nearly 800,000 people in the United States experience a stroke every year, according to the American Stroke Association.
While each stroke is different, many stroke victims are left with some form of paralysis, problems with movement or balance, difficulties speaking, depression or other issues due to the damage caused by the stroke.
The recovery process following a stroke can be frustrating and difficult, but a strong support system can ease the burden. We asked University of Minnesota Health Neurosurgeon Andrew Grande, MD, who is an advocate for stroke victims, to share five things we should know about stroke recovery.
“It’s more than just getting to a hospital in time. Some people are not aware they are experiencing stroke symptoms,” Grande said. “The warning signs may not register with them because they don’t understand what’s happening. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke and the importance of seeking urgent medical care are critical for people affected by a stroke.”
The longer stroke victims go without treatment, the greater the risk for significant, lasting damage. Depending on the effects of the stroke, a stroke victim may need neuro-rehabilitation care, Grande said.
“Patients need a primary care doctor who knows the patient, is an advocate for the patient and is really looking at the patient holistically,” Grande said. “That doctor can handle medical management, care coordination with specialists, nutrition, depression evaluation and many other patient needs.”
Many times, a family or patient will look to a rehab center that is simply convenient or close to home, but the quality of care from one facility to the next can vary widely. It’s crucial that families speak with a family care physician or a neurologist to ensure that a patient is receiving the best rehabilitation care possible, Grande said.
Families can help patients stay in contact with care providers, can assist in transportation to and from appointments and can help establishing connections with stroke support groups.
“I think it makes all the difference in the world to have that family and support system around you,” Grande said. “I see a huge difference in outcome depending on the amount of family support the patient receives.”
Grande recommends that stroke victims consider attending support groups or get involved in advocacy groups, like the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, to support themselves and the broader community. He also encourages patients to ask questions and become engaged in their care, noting that some of his own former stroke patients still ask for updates on new innovations in stroke care and want to know what advances are on the horizon.