Laura Evensen, MPH, the Behavioral Research Director of the stroke division at New York-Presbyterian Hospital shares with us the challenges that people face after they have a stroke and ways to overcome them.
Q: When somebody's recovering from stroke what kinds of changes happen in their life that they have to adjust to?
A: Having a stroke can really change a person's life. Some people who have more serious strokes can no longer work. Some people have to give up their household duties: paying the bills, cooking meals for the family, and so on. A lot of people have to give up hobbies they love, like playing golf or the piano because they are unable to do them anymore.
Especially for older folks who are no longer working, it's the little things that really fill in your hours that are hardest for people to get used to living without. These are things like no longer being able to read a newspaper or watch a television show because your vision isn't good enough.
Q: What can stroke survivors do to make sure that they still get joy out of life?
A: Usually the best option is to get involved with your community. There are a lot of religious organizations in the Northern Manhattan neighborhood that are run by people who have had a stroke or a serious health problem and decided to help others. A lot of stroke survivors who I've talked to get a lot out of giving volunteer time to various charity organizations, senior centers, and other places. The key is to be able to help other people and really get something rewarding back out of life. It's important to realize that even though you may not be able to do a few things in life, doesn't mean you are unable to do everything in life.
Q: What are some of the ways that help stroke survivors recover?
A: People who are able to get involved with their community again are definitely emotionally better off. You can see this in their outlook. They look at life in a much more positive light.
For example, we had two stroke survivors at one of the most recent stroke support groups. One of whom was an older woman who lived alone and was in pretty good health after her stroke. The other woman was young when she had her stroke and had a lot of chronic health problems her whole life and had to use a wheelchair because of it.
The older woman kept complaining to the younger woman in the wheelchair that life was long and nothing in life is easy. The younger woman turned right back and said that she disagreed. She said that life is awesome. She said that life is what you make it. This is a woman in a wheelchair convincing an able-bodied woman that life is good.
Your outlook can really change based on how you spend your days.