There is no one size fits all method to stroke rehabilitation. Your recovery depends on different factors like how much you exercise, how intensely you train, your nutrition, and genetics. But is there more to the equation? A group of researchers thought there was and so they looked into the influence that a social network has on how well patients recover after a stroke.
Friends and family make a difference
Intuitively, we feel that the people around us are essential to our well-being. However, there has been no hard facts proving this until now. Researchers from Boston and Washington just published a new study showing that the support network of family and friends does matter. The researchers also outlined how to use this information to maximize your recovery.
What happens to a social network after a stroke?
To find out how social networks develop after a stroke, the researchers examined stroke patients and their support systems right after the stroke, 3 months, and 6 months after the stroke. They looked at close contacts of a stroke survivor and the strength of the connections by using a technique called network analysis. With this method, they were able to build diagrams illustrating how people connected within the network.
Generally, a person’s network after a stroke gets smaller with time because the people who remain are those who positively influence a person’s life. For example, people who model healthy lifestyle choices, exercise, and offer help tend to stay in the circle and build stronger connections with the patient and with each other. Unhealthy contacts tend to fall out of the loop.
Interestingly, the researchers found that the size of a person’s social network directly relates to their physical abilities. They found that a strong social network can improve recovery after a stroke. People who recover better have more extensive social connections. Or maybe it is the other way around. When more people are there to help, the better the recovery a patient sees. This explanation would make sense since most stroke patients need more people to assist in the first few months.
Using a social network to help support your recovery
Based on their findings, the researchers recommend that family and friends should be involved in rehabilitation. They also recommend building mentorships through friends or through online support groups to help keep you on track.
Strokemark – helping you to build networks
We at Strokemark have been working on ways to help you connect with others and to develop your social network through our app and online group. When using the Strokemark app, we encourage caregivers to take part. We’ve found that getting help in this way maximizes the impact of our courses. Additionally, we’ve been encouraging patients to connect through our Facebook group, StrokeTalk. Join our group and see what others are discussing or download our app and see how we can support your recovery.