MARY CIECHANOWSKI, MSN, ACNS, BC, CCRN
TERESA ZACK, MSN, RN, NE-BC
When someone suffers a stroke a portion of the brain becomes damaged. Since the brain is the command center of the human body, a stroke can affect the signals coming from the brain. The brain controls all aspects of the person, from the physical to emotional aspects. Functions that can be affected by stroke can include reading, writing, walking, talking, thinking, and seeing as well as the memories we form and our moods. Having a stroke has the potential to affect and change any part of who we are and result in problems with intellectual abilities, emotions and personality, in addition to the physical disabilities.
Speech and Language:
Some stroke survivors can have problems with speech and language. This can make it difficult to communicate with others which can become very frustrating. After a stroke, one can have difficulty naming objects correctly, expressing themselves or even comprehending what others are saying. Some people may also experience problems in related skills such as math, reading or writing. This does not mean these skills are lost forever. Many times with speech and language therapy these skills can be relearned or alternate ways of communication are formed.
Memory, especially short-term memory, can be affected by a stroke. One may not be able to retain what has just happened 5 minutes ago or one may not be able to retrieve memories from the past. Strokes can affect verbal memory, such as naming items on a shopping list or visual memory, such as recall for faces. A stroke can cause problems with recalling information, but that does not mean these skills cannot be re-learned.
A stroke can affect one’s ability to pay attention to one side of one’s physical space or visual field. Even though there may not be problems with one’s eyesight, the visual field loss may cause a person to bump into walls while walking or trip on objects in the walking path. Sometimes this neglect of space can be so severe the person may deny that a body part even belongs to them or will not use one side of the body despite no actual loss of physical ability. There can also be difficulty with solving problems such as puzzles or drawing. If there is a problem with the visual system, a stroke can also cause problems with reading. Physical and occupational therapy are terrific sources to help compensate for one-sided neglect or eyesight issues.
Patients can develop emotional problems after a stroke such as depression and mood swings. Depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Some of the symptoms of depression include: persistent sadness, anxiousness or “empty mood”, feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, decreased energy, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, insomnia or excessive sleepiness, appetite changes, or thoughts of suicide. If these symptoms are present, seek an evaluation from a medical practitioner. Social workers, pastoral services, physicians, and other counseling services are available and offer insight and help with these symptoms.
Personality changes can also occur after stroke. Some common changes that may happen are doing things without thinking, social inappropriateness, impulsiveness, or a lack of interest in activities. Communication with loved ones is key – making sure everyone knows that these behaviors can occur after a stroke may make it easier to seek help if needed.
The most important thing to remember is that, although having a stroke may change many aspects of your daily life, these changes can be overcome in time.