BE FAST in Addressing a Stroke and Post-Stroke Rehab
March 02, 2021
While your risk of stroke does increase with age, brain bleeds and blood clots don’t only happen to older people. They can actually hit anyone at any age, even children.
With that in mind, it’s important to learn now what steps you can take later if a stroke hits you or a loved one.
BE FAST for Strokes
When it comes to heart attacks, we often say “time is muscle.” In the same way, "time is brain" when it comes to stroke. That’s why learning the signs of stroke now could save brain tissue later for you or a loved one.
Major symptoms are easier to remember thanks to the “BE FAST” acronym:
B for Balance: Sudden trouble balancing can be a sign of stroke.
E for Eyes: Sudden loss of vision or blurriness in either or both eyes means a stroke could be in progress.
F for Face: If half of your or a loved one’s face is drooping or numb, stroke could be the cause. Try to smile and see if your smile is equal on both sides.
A for Arms: Another stroke sign is one arm being numb or week. Try to raise your arms and see if one drifts or stays downward.
S for Speech: Strokes can cause slurred speech. Try to say a simple sentence and see if it comes out clearly.
T for Time: Any of these symptoms could indicate a stroke is underway, so time is everything.
If you or a loved one has any of sign of stroke, get to the emergency room immediately. Resist the urge to drive; call 911 and request an ambulance. Stroke care can begin in the ambulance, and the EMTs will coordinate your hospital care on the way.
Be Fast with Rehab
Time also matters for rehab after stroke or other neurological trauma like a traumatic brain injury. “As soon as the patient is medically stable, we try to start their rehabilitation,” explains Kristin Carter, a physical therapist specializing in neuro rehab with Overlake Clinics Rehabilitation Care. “The sooner rehab begins, usually the better the outcome.”
That rehab program often begins in the hospital and may include:
- Physical therapy to help restore muscle control and encourage movement.
- Speech therapy to improve communication skills, cognitive function and swallowing.
- Occupational therapy to help you relearn daily living activities.
After discharge, some patients go to an inpatient acute rehab center. Others may have in-home therapy, while others will visit with their rehab specialists once or twice a week.
Your rehab work continues, keeping up with your exercises at home is critical if you want the most healing possible. “A home program tailored to the needs of the individual supplements the one-on-one time spent with therapists in the clinic,” says Carter.
If you have a loved one in stroke/neuro rehab, your involvement is important too. “Reminding your loved one to stay on top of their assignments is important,” Carter says, “but it’s also valuable to let them struggle a little. Resist the urge to do things for your loved one—their brain and body need practice for maximum recovery.”
That practice will take time, and there’s no perfect schedule or set progression. “I’ve seen patients continuing to improve a year or more after their hospitalization,” Carter says. “There is no time limit for ultimate recovery of function. There’s always a reason to keep working.”