There are three crucial bits of information I give my patients / families / whanau after an Acute Stroke that can be overlooked…
- A stroke can effect your emotions. You can experience changes in your ability to regulate your feelings (emotional lability), you may find yourself more tearful than normal, this can be hard especially for men who don’t cry often, or you may find yourself more short tempered. Conversely you may find that you swing like a pendulum between emotional states: tearful – ‘normal’ – short tempered and everywhere in-between. This is quite normal post stroke, both because you are adjusting to a life changing event and the stroke also shakes up the chemicals in the brain and can upset the parts regulating emotions. In many cases this will settle over time. Have you experienced / noticed if your family member is experiencing anything like this after your /their stroke?
(At this point many people break down into tears and confess that they have been so upset and could not understand why / feeling ashamed to talk about it etc. – this often leads to a discussion about how the stroke has effected them and talk of strategies to use to manage this side-effect of a stroke).
- Fatigue is to be expected – many people find they are much more tired than normal, they may need to take naps during the day or struggle to concentrate for long periods of time, this is a natural side effect of a stroke initially – the brain is busy trying to heal itself and it requires energy to do this – it is important to have regular rests during the day in the Acute phase after a stroke if your body is telling you this is needed. Some people need to schedule their therapy sessions / visitors / rest periods to ensure that they get the most benefit of their time in hospital. Have you noticed any changes in your energy levels post-stroke?
(This leads into fatigue management education / pacing / energy conservation education / managing large numbers of visitors etc.).
- Post-stroke depression is fairly common and not always openly talked about – some people may notice that as time goes on they don’t feel like themselves, their mood may be lower than usual or that their personality has significantly changed. It doesn’t happen to everybody but it is good to be aware that this is a reasonably common side effect post stroke and to periodically check-in with yourself and see how you are doing. If you notice that your mood has changed in the weeks post-stroke is can be a good idea to discuss this with your General Practitioner / nominated health professional.
In my experience these simple pieces of information can reduce feelings of isolation, embarrassment, even of failure in people post-stroke.
What other bits of information have you felt makes a difference for people immediately post-stroke?