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A Stroke In The Family: What to Expect

Understanding Stroke

Stroke or CVA (cerebral vascular accident) is the third leading single cause of death in the United States. Every year 550,000 Americans experience a stroke and three million Americans are living with the effects of stroke. An estimated 50 percent of all strokes could be prevented. In addition, new medications may halt or reduce the effects of a stroke.

What Is A Stroke?

A stroke occurs when the blood flow to an area of the brain is interrupted by a blocked or broken blood vessel. When a stroke occurs, it kills brain cells in the immediate area. When the brain cells die, they release chemicals that set off a chain reaction that endangers brain cells in a larger surrounding area of brain tissue. Without prompt medical treatment, this larger area will also die.

When brain cells die, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost or impaired. The degree of recovery depends on the amount of brain cell death.

What Does The Brain Do?

The brain is the most complex part of the human body. It interprets the senses, initiates movement, and controls our behavior. The following chart explains what each side of the brain does and what is affected when a stroke occurs.

Left Hemisphere
Right side of body affected
Right Hemisphere
Left side of body affected
Motor speech Attention span
Expressive speech Impulse control
Movement on right side of body Movement on left side of body
Emotion Control Initiates activities you want to do
Writing Remembering visual objects
Locating body in space Recognition of faces
Understanding math Drawing skills
Reading numbers and letters Awareness of the left side of the body
Recognizing objects Emotional stability
Remembering written information Measuring distances of objects to body

Recovering From A Stroke

Because stroke survivors often have complex rehabilitation needs, progress and recovery differ. Brain injury resulting from a stroke can effect the senses, behavioral and thought patterns, speech, and memory. Temporary or long-term paralysis on one side of the body can also occur. The first step in recovery is to help the survivor prevent another stroke while taking care of any other medical problems while in acute care.

The next step is spontaneous recovery. This happens naturally to most people. It may take a few weeks, but sometimes can continue for a longer period of time.

Next the stroke survivor may enter a rehabilitation therapy program. Rehabilitation helps to preserve abilities and to regain lost capacity. The goal in rehab is to become more functionally independent. To be successful, rehabilitation should begin as soon possible. The stroke survivor’s will to recover, their desire for independence, and family support are essential for successful rehabilitation.

The final phase in rehabilitation is return to the community. This can last for a lifetime as the stroke survivor and their family learn to cope with the effects of stroke.

Stroke Rehabilitation Program Components

Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center offers an individualized Stroke Program combining state-of-the-art therapies with compassionate care to provide the patient with the best opportunity to achieve their maximum potential and best quality of life. The physiatrist (rehab physician) directed program includes:

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech-Language therapy
  • Psychological services
  • Biofeedback
  • Social skills retraining
  • Swallowing/Feeding program
  • Wheelchair Seating /Positioning
  • Family/Patient education
  • Sexuality program
  • Adaptive aquatics program
  • Animal-assisted therapy program
  • Home accessibility evaluation
  • Independent living apartment
  • Extended services: home health, outpatient therapy, adaptive driving evaluation, support groups, and community reintegration

The Goals Of The Stroke Rehabilitation Program

To provide the utmost quality and compassionate care to the person who has had a stroke.
To help the patient and caregivers understand how strokes occur, how to prevent a reoccurrence and to explain the reasons for each step in their plan of care.

To help patient and caregivers cope with the effects of the stroke and any disability that may result.

To work with patient and caregiver in developing a realistic plan for discharge, follow-up care, and community reintegration.

For more information about stroke and rehabilitation, please contact; American Heart Association – East Tennessee Region at (865) 588-7646, National Stroke Association, or you can contact Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center directly:

Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center
1901 Clinch Ave. Knoxville, TN 37916
Admissions: (865) 331-1446
Education: (865) 331-4943
1 800 PAT-NEAL (728-6325)