Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in Canada, with 6,500 strokes occurring in B.C. every year.
Whether you’ve had a stroke or know someone recovering from stroke, it becomes quickly apparent that life will never be the same.
After my dad had his stroke, he couldn’t practise law again. He wasn’t able to drive for almost a year. He couldn’t button up his shirt or tie his shoelaces. He slurred his words and had a ‘funny’ gait. At times, people assumed he was drunk (ironically so, considering my dad had about one drink per year).
For many stroke survivors life doesn’t have to be worse. In fact, many people affected by stroke continue to enjoy fulfilling and meaningful lives. Some would argue that their lives are better in some ways — they look after themselves more; they have a deeper appreciation for the simple pleasures of life, like a grandchild’s smile or a beautiful sunset; they are more understanding of the problems faced by others and they value the things they still enjoy even more.
Although my dad continued to face daily challenges post-stroke, as he entered the phase of long term recovery, he was able to reinvent certain parts of his life.
He started cooking more. He walked more and farther. He enjoyed a cigar a day (much better than his cigarette habit!). Although he couldn’t hold a gun, he still went up north to hunt with his friends and sons. He still went to work but in a much different capacity. He spent more time writing and he took more time to enjoy his children and grandchildren.
One of the most difficult transitions for stroke survivors and families is the transition from hospital to home. Research shows the first year post-stroke is the most important in getting back into meaningful activities and engaging in social and community activities.
Stroke survivors who experience obstacles in finding ways to find purpose in their lives, are at a much higher risk of depression and social isolation as well as physical and cognitive decline.
The Stroke Recovery Association of BC (SRABC), a non-profit organization, helps stroke survivors and their caregivers throughout B.C. to promote their independence and improve their overall quality of life. Their new Seven Steps to Stroke Recovery educational video is a tool for anyone wishing to learn about stroke recovery.
The seven steps that assist stroke survivors and caregivers in knowing how to continue the process of stroke recovery in the community are exercise and mobility, communication, social and recreation interaction, memory, support, leading a healthy lifestyle and navigating the health-care system.
The 12-minute video features interviews from stroke rehabilitation professionals such as doctors, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and speech language pathologists. They speak directly about each step of recovery according to their expertise.
You can view the video online on YouTube. You can also call SRABC toll-free at 1-888-313-3377 or in the Lower Mainland at 604-688-3603 and have a DVD sent to you in the mail.
Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Planning. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.
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