Stroke and Recovery: Medical Alert Systems Can Help

stroke recovery

A stroke can be a frightening, challenging event. Depending upon the severity of the stroke, it can be a transient phase that requires a few days of care or a major event that significantly changes life as you knew it. A stroke can cause serious brain damage, but the sooner you get treatment, the better your odds are of a full recovery. Understanding what a stroke is and knowing the signs are the first steps in protecting yourself.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is either blocked (usually by a blood clot) or ruptures. When the vessel is blocked, brain tissue is starved for blood and oxygen and begins to die.

According to a report from the American Heart Association journal Circulation, 87% of strokes are ischemic strokes, which are caused by a blockage in the vessel. The less common type of stroke is the hemorrhagic stroke, where a blood vessel bursts or leaks. There is a third type of stroke, known as a TIA or transient ischemic stroke, which lasts for less than five minutes. This is also known as a “mini stroke.”[1]

The signs of stroke are sometimes subtle, especially with a TIA. But they are usually pretty clear. Symptoms can include numbness, confusion, trouble with vision, trouble walking, and a severe headache with no clear cause. These symptoms come on very quickly.

If you are feeling these symptoms, you must act fast. And in fact, that’s the word to remember: FAST.

In the case of a stroke, FAST stands for Face, Arms, Speech, and Time. While standing in front of a mirror, do the following:

·         Face: Smile. Does one side of the face droop?

·         Arms: Lift both arms Does one arm drift down?

·         Speech: Ask the person to speak. Is their speech slurred?

·         Time: If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, call 911 immediately, or press the button on your medical alert necklace to get help quickly.

The importance of speed in the event of a stroke cannot be stressed enough. Treatments are most effective when administered within three hours of the stroke[2].

Did you know that according to the CDC, one in three individuals who suffer a stroke don’t call for an ambulance? That’s precious time wasted, and time lost means brain tissue lost. If you have a medical alert system, you can reach help instantly, 24/7/365. You can tell the trained agent what the problem is – or if you can’t speak, they will immediately send help. This is indispensable when time is key to recovery.

It’s also vitally important to get help for what appears to be a stroke, even if the symptoms go away. You could have experienced a transient ischemic stroke, which is often a warning sign of another, more damaging stroke in the future. According to the CDC, more than one-third of those who have a TIA but don’t get treatment have a more damaging stroke within one year, and up to 15% of individuals who have a TIA will suffer a major stroke within three months.

What Happens After a Stroke?

Life after a stroke can present physical challenges. April Pruski, a stroke rehabilitation specialist at Johns Hopkins, said that the process “can be slow and uncertain, and different people recover in a range of ways.” One thing is hopefully always the same, and that is very fast treatment. If you have an emergency button alarm, things will start to move very quickly. You’ll likely be admitted into the emergency department to allow doctors to determine the type of stroke and administer medications that can help you.

Depending upon the severity of the stroke, a rehabilitation team will start working to help you recover. This might include neurologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, speech-language pathologists, physicians, nurses, and more. They will all begin delivering the proper therapy you need to begin recovery. That recovery might take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, or even longer, depending upon the situation.

Why does the recovery vary so much? It depends on the area of the brain that was affected by the stroke, how severe the stroke was, and how quickly you got the help you needed. The recovery can focus on memory problems, trouble speaking, issues with mobility or weakness, difficulty swallowing, sleeping problems, or even depression or impulsivity. Every individual can have different problems after a stroke, and the treatment will be tailored to you[3].

After time in the hospital, and possibly a rehabilitation center, it’s time to go home. That means it’s time to take steps to make sure your home is as safe as possible.

Going Home After a Stroke

When you go home after a stroke, you might still be feeling many effects of the emergency. These can include weakness, memory loss, numbness in various areas of the body, paralysis, fatigue, a loss of control of your bowels or bladder, or poor balance and coordination, among other things[4]. All of these issues can affect your safety and security in your home.

Attaining some peace of mind is important to healing. This might mean having a 24/7 professional or family caregiver to help out. In addition, it could also mean using 24/7/365 medical alert technology, specifically an alarm with fall detection, to ensure that help is always standing by. Wear this emergency button pendant, bracelet, or watch at all times, even in the shower, and you will always have the ability to call for help if you ever need it for any reason—even if you can’t speak. Alert1 alert devices start at less than $1 a day.

There are some things you can do to modify your home for safety. These aging in place home modifications can give you more independence by allowing you to move around the home without as much worry about injury. According to the American Stroke Association, the following can help:

·         Remove any loose floor coverings, like throw rugs.

·         If you are going to use a wheelchair or walker, consider removing carpets and replacing the floors with hardwood or laminate.

·         Those who must use a wheelchair or walker might also consider widening doorways for easier access. (This can be expensive, so try using swing hinges on the doors first to gain a few inches of clearance. That might be enough.)

·         Make sure there is adequate space between furniture so you can easily move around without bumping into things.

·         Install railings on both sides of all stairs. Extend it beyond the last step.

·         Try to eliminate thresholds in doorways.

·         Install grab bars in areas where you might need them, such as near the bed or in the bathroom.

Remember that you can request an occupational therapist or social worker to look at your home and offer recommendations on what your particular situation calls for in terms of home modifications after stroke.

In addition to home modifications and the use of medical alert systems with fall detection, there are other things you can do to help protect your independence and improve your safety:

·         Wear proper shoes; these are probably flat with wide toes.

·         Don’t rely on furniture to hold you up when walking. Even larger pieces can shift.

·         Exercise frequently to strengthen your leg muscles and thus, improve your balance.

·         Pay attention when told you have certain limitations. You’ll work on those in therapy!

·         Follow guidelines for preventing osteoporosis, as this will help you build stronger bones.

·         Pay close attention when walking to help mitigate your fall risk.

·         Make sure to take medications on time and stick to a consistent therapy schedule.

·         Understand that certain medications can make you drowsy and affect your ability to move about safely.

·         Use all assistive devices as prescribed, such as walkers or canes.

The Cleveland Clinic goes further with room-by-room tips on how to make your home more accessible after a stroke. The resulting physical difficulties that you might be left with can possibly be overcome with therapy, but in the meantime – and for the foreseeable future – these might be a good idea:

In the Kitchen:

·         Install pull-out shelves and lazy susans for easy access to everything

·         Make use of your microwave instead of the oven or stove

·         If you need to stay seated, use a large cutting board placed across an open drawer to help with meal prep

·         Use a small, wheeled cart to transport groceries or supplies

·         Make use of baskets to hold commonly used items

In the Bathroom:

·         Install grab bars near the toilet and shower or tub

·         Use a seat elevator to raise the toilet seat for easier transfers or comfort

·         Change over to single-lever faucets that can be operated easily with one hand

In the Bedroom:

·         If your bed is too low to easily stand up from, consider putting risers under it

·         If the bed is too tall, consider a thinner mattress or removing the casters

These are all simple and affordable aging in place solutions you can employ for the time being to ensure that you have better access and thus better independence in your home. Keep in mind that safety is always the key point when rehabilitating from a stroke, so ensure peace of mind with a button alarm.

It’s recommended that this technology has senior fall alert sensors. A fall detection sensor in the medical alert pendant can recognize a fall even if the alert button is not pressed, and send an alert to the Command Center. If you did fall and you are injured or simply need help getting back up, the professionals at the Command Center will go down your list of approved contacts and send the help you need. They will also stay on the line with you until that help arrives, so you will never face an emergency alone.

Recovery from a stroke can be a long road. Anything you can do to benefit your mental and physical health is going to matter a great deal to your sense of safety, security, peace of mind, and overall improvement.