When a loved one suffer from a stroke, there is often great confusion in the life altering complications, both those that are short term and those that are long term. As a family member caring for a stroke patient, it is important to discern the spectrum of complications so often the result of a stroke event.
Following a stroke event, your loved one will require care and treatment in a highly sophisticated medical facility, usually in an intensive care unit where the cerebral edema is monitored and treated and further complications are assessed. It is during this period that many family members begin to witness the evolving health complications associated with a stroke.
Once the swelling around the brain is resolved, your loved one will be moved to a step down unit or cardiac care unit where further monitoring will occur. Because the risks of health complications linger for many weeks and months, it is in the step down unit where parents, and stroke patient, are often provided the most intense education in preparation for returning home.
Of the immediate short-term affects, often realized in the week after stroke while still hospitalized, the patient will suffer from an onset of fever. This fever is most commonly attributed to the damage of the areas in the brain where our bodily temperature is controlled. In rare cases, however, a febrile stroke patient may be suffering from infection or illness and, as a result, must be closely monitored by healthcare professionals to ensure there is no further brain injury attributed to elevated body temperature.
Of greater concern than fever is the onset of dysphagia, a difficulty in swallowing, which can lead to the development of pneumonia which is often fatal in the stroke patient. For this reason, patients who experience dysphagia following stroke are often placed with a feeding tube to ensure proper nutrients are supplied without creating a greater complication in the lungs and gastrointestinal system.
As time progresses, the short-term complications will give way to the more long-term complications, most often associated with the physical rehabilitation required in the post-stroke patient. In fact, the most common long-term complication often noticed is the sporadic and varied sensations of paralysis and pain in the stroke patient. For this reason, it is imperative that the stroke patient maintain regular stretching and exercise programs with a license physical therapist.
In addition to physical long-term impairments, the stroke patient will also notice a change in cognitive functioning, including logic, reasoning and even simply mathematical processes such as addition and subtraction. With nearly 70 percent of all stroke patients suffering from some altered state of mental capacity, the implications, long-term, are substantial to the family of a stroke patient. It is also important to note these same cognitive changes may also give way to changes in mental health status, with many stroke patients experiencing feelings of anxiety and depression.
As with any health complication, especially those of a cardiovascular nature, the key to optimal health outcomes lies in early treatment and intervention. In the case of a stroke, the key to the long-term health of the stroke patient may lie in the support and collaboration of family members to ensure the stroke patient is given the appropriate long-term health care.