Patience and Stroke Recovery
By David Wasielewski
Coming to Terms with Stroke
Years of personal and support group experience has led to my conclusion that patience is very necessary as each survivor comes to terms with their post-stroke lives. Along with determination these two virtues allow many survivors to travel the often long slow road to recovery. As I counsel new survivors I am careful to play down expectations for a swift and full recovery. One of the first questions we inevitably get from new support group members, “How long since your stroke?”
The answers from our folks in the group allow the newcomers to recalibrate expectations about their own recovery. Answers to their question allow them to see the reality of how long a recovery might take. Several aphasic members are five and even ten years from their event and still making progress. Some with physical deficits are a few years post stroke with permanent, lingering issues: hemiplegia, muscle spasticity, etc. These realizations can be a bit of a shock to the new survivors but are a necessary part of the recovery process.
One of the things we hope for is that these new folks realize that recovery often takes a long time, extended effort and tons of patience. The second realization we hope for is that these same folks realize that although a quick full recovery may not happen there is still reason to push forward. As each individual comes to experience the realities of their post stroke existence they will also begin see a value to managing their lives with the physical and mental challenges that remain.
A survivor may not be able to do things as quickly as they used to – but often these things still get done. ‘Patience.”. Typing one handed is significantly slower that two handed as I have learned, but it doesn’t stop me from writing these articles. “Patience”. Taking a shower takes a while longer, but planning additional time lets me complete the task and move on with my day. ‘patience.” Communicating takes more time for those with Aphasia, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say. It just takes longer. “Patience.”
Patience is also a necessary virtue in caregivers. Caregiver expectations need to be realistic as they accompany their survivors on this journey to recovery. Meeting other survivors and caregivers gives these folks realistic expectations about the level of recovery to be achieved and the time it might take to get there. Watching the interaction of folks who have been there and survived relationships intact, hopefully demonstrates that the long difficult road is worthwhile and the patience that journey requires is worth the effort.
Adjusting to a new post-stroke life requires patience. Once expectations become realistic for the caregiver and survivor much of the frustration in the journey can be relieved. Patience can replace frustration. The caregiver trusts that the survivor is putting forth her best effort. The survivor trusts that the caregiver understands the time it will take to see results. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neurologist who documented her post stroke recovery has a relevant quote I appreciate. “Just because you can’t see me trying, doesn’t mean I’m not trying.” The survivor rightly asks for patience rom the caregiver.
Are there ways to accelerate this long, difficult journey? My experience tells me no. After the long journey thru recovery the survivor slowly comes to accept their new reality. Along with that, the survivor needs often develop new ways of doing things that were once second nature. This often means that accomplishing common tasks takes more time and patience.
In our younger lives learning new tasks often makes life faster and easier. Life is accelerated. This takes a while. We often get 18-20 years to make these pleasant adjustments. A stroke survivor, on the other hand, is tasked with adjusting to a slower, more challenging existence. It seems unrealistic to expect these types of adjustments to happen quickly. With time, these adjustments happen, just more slowly. It takes patience.
David had a stroke in 2005 ending his career as a logistics consultant. Since the stroke he returned to college for a Sociology degree. He is a peer counselor, facilitates a local stroke support group, volunteers at the local United Way and writes for The Stroke Network.
Copyright ©August 2017
The Stroke Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009
All rights reserved.