Today, October 29, is observed as “World Stroke Day” to underscore the serious nature and impact of having a stroke, to raise awareness of a stroke and the prevention and treatment of it, and to ensure that better care and support is available for stroke survivors.
As the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) notes, stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It likely is a leading cause of death in other countries as well. As aging in place specialists, we recognize stroke as a progressive condition that affects many areas of a person’s life. Actually, it can cross into all three functional areas: mobility, sensory, and cognitive.
Depending on the severity of the stroke, the elapsed time before medical treatment is available once the event is recognized, the general health of the person at the time of onset, and the areas of the body affected by the disease, a person’s ability to get around and to perform many so-called normal tasks may be greatly limited.
A person after suffering a stroke may not be able to walk unaided and may need to use a wheelchair or even have someone assist them in getting around their home. They may have issues with balance, standing, sitting, and rising, and may require assistance for any or all of these activities.
Physical therapy can help to restore some function, but a lot of the progress will depend on the initial treatment received and the type of stroke that occurred. October has been “National Physical Therapy Month” as well, and physical therapists have an instrumental role in helping people age in place well as they help to correct mobility issues such as those brought upon by aging, overexertion or straining (from sports such as golf, tennis, biking, running, or lifting weights), or accidents (such as falls or vehicular events). Through a program of strength building, flexion, extension, flexibility, and other joint and muscle activity, the physical therapist works to improve function and restore a person to normal activity. In the case of a stroke, the therapy is designed to rebuild the lost muscle activity,
Physical therapists also are interested in preventing reinjury or aggravation of a condition for which they have offered a treatment regimen so they may make recommendations affecting daily routines and activities and suggest safety improvements in the home to help make aging in place more comfortable and convenient. In the case of a stroke, helping the client to avoid other injuries is going to be important as well as the treatment and recovery are underway.
Mobility is such an important part of our lives that we may not give it much thought until there is some type of limitation or impairment. It could be minor from muscle fatigue, overuse, or a strain, It could be from a minor injury or a broken bone. Of course, it could be much more serious and severe such as with a stroke.
Opening doors and drawers, standing, walking, sitting, bending, squatting, grasping, lifting, twisting, turning, using our hands and fingers to open packaging materials or storage containers (boxes, bottles, and jars, for instance), climbing steps or stairs, dressing, grooming, and many other activities that a person performs daily without much thought as they are occurring can become challenging when a person does not have full access of their hands, arms, legs, or other parts of their body as can happen with various aging conditions but especially with a stroke.
Sensory issues are likely going to be present as well – vision, touch, or taste could be affected. Again, being able to touch objects that we pick up, hold, or move is something that we do on a daily basis that could be severely limited with a stroke – certainly being able to do them as we did prior t the event. Some limitations could be long-lasting or even permanent depending on the severity of the stroke and how quickly it was treated. These impairments are going to be frustrating due to the inability to perform routine tasks that never were an issue prior to this or because the client just doesn’t understand why they cannot do what they are accustomed to doing.
Of course, several types of cognitive limitations can happen as a result of a stroke, and these can, in turn, affect mobility and sensory areas of a person’s life.
Education about what a stroke is, learning how diet and exercise can help prevent many such episodes, and being aware of warning signs can help people survive or even avoid a stroke. Let’s work to reduce this killer and to keep people more active and happy as they age in place by not needing to worry about living with the aftermath of a stroke event.