Stroke is a life-changing event and diminishes the way you feel about yourself. It affects the way you do things and your willingness to return to the things you enjoy. The better you feel about yourself the more you will do; the more you do the better you will feel. This is known as the “Matthew’s Effect. Socializing with family and friends is an important part of stroke recovery.
However, as a survivor you may have trouble doing the things that allow you to connect with people: talking, understanding what people say, email, going to the mall, mobility issues and fear of being out among people. These can make you feel disconnected and alone at a time you need social support more than ever before.
Personally, my biggest fear was having another stroke and speaking with people. My stroke resulted in aphasia, which caused me to avoid talking to anyone. With the encouragement of family and friends I now have little fear of speaking and going out. It took time but it is amazing to have my life back.
According to the Journal of Neuroscience (2010) study depression can be as high as 40% in post-stroke patients. Causes include; social isolation, poor or absent family support, and poor caregiving support. The study concluded these factors resulted in diminished physical functions and decreased quality of life. The study also showed that social integration is significantly related to overall stroke recovery, increased quality of life, and healthy attitude. Post-stroke patients who received quality care, support, and love, showed healthy attitudes, suffer less depression and have better quality of life than those without quality care and support.
The following are some suggestion to get you back on the road to your new life:
- Together choose places to visit that are accessible to you based on any limitations with mobility that you may have. Many malls, stores, restaurants, churches, and museums are easily accessible for those who rely on walkers and wheelchairs for mobility. They also offer a place to sit down should you need to rest.
- Some people will be uncomfortable around you. Do not take it personally. People fear the things they do not understand or have no knowledge of the situation. If you are comfortable doing so, explain your stroke and how it affected you.
- Make a list of family and friends’ telephone numbers and invite them out or ask them to pick something up for you at the store or just talk.
- Get involved in activities or groups – stroke support groups, senior citizens groups, or groups with a hobbie focus.
- You are not the same person you were before your stroke, work towards a ‘new normal’ instead of trying to be the old you.
- Do not over do it. Allow your mind and body to rest. Sleep heals the body – listen to needs of.
- Start slowly. When planning the first several outings with your loved ones, plan for just an hour or two, not the entire day.
- Do not be too hard on yourself – recognize and celebrate all progress small and large.
By: Carol Maloney, Stroke Survivor