In the UK, approximately 100,000 people will have a stroke each year. Of those numbers, around 85,000 people will potentially need aftercare support from nurses when they leave hospital.
Nurses play a huge role in helping stroke survivors and their families: aiding recovery, supporting patients to manage the changes to their lives, even helping to prevent another stroke from occurring.
Here’s a quick guide to some of the main things you need to know about aftercare for stroke patients and what to expect.
Recovery Will Happen, But It Will Be Slow
Most people are aware of the impact that a stroke has on your life. But even so, it is worth managing a patient’s expectations when it comes to the timescales of their recovery. A patient believing that they will fully recover in the first few weeks following a stroke can not only lead to disappointment, it can also prevent them from properly engaging with the rehabilitation that will help them recover in the long run.
Stroke Patients Have a Wide Variety of Needs
Loss of Motor Function
One of the most well-known issues that stroke patients have to deal with is the impairments to their motor function. Though they may find it challenging, it’s important that you encourage stroke patients to keep up with exercise. This doesn’t just help to rewire the brain and recover movement, but also helps to build back the general fitness that is inevitably lost after a stroke.
Loss of Sensory Function
It’s harder to spot than lost motor function, but stroke patients also experience sensory impairments, such as being unable to feel their arm or leg. It can be very distressing, and regaining sensory function can take even longer than recovering motor function. When caring for a patient with sensory impairments you should make sure that any affected limbs are positioned in a way that won’t cause injury.
Continence issues are very common after a stroke, but this makes it no less devastating for the person who experiences them. Your assessment to identify the cause is a crucial first step in solving the problem. Bladder and bowel control issues are an inescapable fact of surviving a stroke, and you will play an essential part in helping your patient make as full a recovery as possible.
Mental Health Problems and Cognitive Issues
Mental health problems and cognitive issues are also very common in stroke survivors. While cognitive problems caused by a stroke can recover in the weeks after a stroke, mental health and psychological issues often continue for months and years after. As a nurse you are in the ideal position to spot any mood disorders your patient might be experiencing. You should help your patient to access the mental health services available to them wherever possible, with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) being the most common treatment.
Prevention is Possible – If Patients Follow Your Advice
There are a great many reasons why someone could have a stroke, so preventing them can never be a sure thing. However, you can work with your patient and their family to help identify the cause, and make changes to prevent further strokes. This includes medication, but lifestyle changes are often an essential but ignored factor in stroke prevention. Help your patient to understand that changes like healthy eating, exercise, and quitting smoking are all hugely important if they want to avoid another stroke in the future.
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