How depression can influence stroke recovery

One of the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. is stroke. Stroke care goes well beyond the Emergency Room . In fact, stroke recovery can last for years, and some stroke survivors may never fully recover from their disabilities. Many factors can influence a patient’s recovery from stroke, including how quickly the patient arrived at the Emergency Room at Los Robles Regional Medical Center—a Comprehensive Stroke Center. Mental health is another factor that can affect a patient’s recovery.

The prevalence of post-stroke depression
Stroke rehabilitation programs are comprehensive, involving treatment modalities like physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and nutritional guidance. And in many cases, it should also include behavioral healthcare.

Post-stroke depression is quite common, and it may be underdiagnosed. According to the National Stroke Association , over one-third of all stroke survivors may develop post-stroke depression. Every patient’s experience with depression is a little different, but many report these associated emotions:

  • Hopelessness
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Frustration
  • Anxiety

The consequences of post-stroke depression
Stroke survivors are at an increased risk of suffering a recurrent stroke. To combat this problem, specialists can incorporate preventive medical interventions and lifestyle modifications into the stroke rehabilitation program. These often include:

  • Doctor-approved exercise
  • Dietician-designed meal plan
  • Smoking cessation
  • Alcohol abstinence or moderation

The problem with post-stroke depression, other than the fact that it lowers quality of life, is that patients with depression often have trouble following through on healthy lifestyle changes. It’s challenging to find the motivation to exercise or prepare a healthy meal when feelings of hopelessness and sadness persist.

Post-stroke depression can even exacerbate other problems that linger after a stroke, such as:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Incontinence

The coping strategies for post-stroke depression
It’s important for family members of stroke survivors to be aware of the potential signs of post-stroke depression, and to encourage the survivor to talk to the doctor or a counselor. Depression isn’t easy to cope with, especially with the combined challenges of stroke rehabilitation, but there are many talented healthcare providers who are ready and eager to help stroke survivors. Some coping strategies include:

  • Support groups
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Social engagement
  • Realistic goal-setting
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

Medications, including antidepressants, may also be appropriate for some stroke survivors.

Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks is Ventura County’s first certified Comprehensive Stroke Center . If you think you’re having a stroke, call 911 immediately—don’t try to drive yourself to the Emergency Room. General questions about our superior, patient-centered medical services can be directed to a registered nurse at (877) 888-5746.

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