In general, there are some very positive aspects to having a stroke in our younger years. In some cases, the overall outcome is better, and the recovery rate is faster. There are several reasons for this. The younger the brain, the more potential there is for “plasticity” to allow for tissue repair. Plasticity is the capacity of the brain to change or “rewire” neuronal (cell) connections during the healing process.
In general, younger stroke survivors have fewer comorbidities — health issues that occur at the same time as another health issue — that can interfere with recovery. Advanced heart disease, poorly controlled hypertension, dementia and severe arthritis are all examples of potential barriers to aggressive rehabilitation.
Despite these positives, young stroke also has some mutable negative aspects. Although healthcare reform may help with this issue, sometimes young stroke patients find it difficult to get the appropriate rehabilitation early in the course of recovery, due to having no or poor insurance coverage. Elderly patients in general qualify for Medicare services.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, younger stroke survivors may lose identity in a number of key ways. They may lose careers and/or their employment at a time when they are expected to be high achievers. They may lose their family’s esteem, due to their inability to contribute with activities and responsibilities as they were previously. They may not be believed when telling others of their stroke experience due, to societal prejudice and unawareness of stroke among young adults.
For more information about this topic, you can download the The Rehabilitation of Younger Stroke Patients (PDF).