Recovery From Stroke or TBI: 3 Reasons You Should Grab A Glass Of Water Now!
Many who are caring for someone or recovering from a hemorrhagic or ischemic stroke or a traumatic brain injury want to know what things they can incorporate into their daily lives to increase their chances of recovery.
As my own spouse suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage from an undiagnosed disease called Moya Moya at the age of 46 years old, I tried to find any information I could on Moya Moya treatment. Turns out, there are very few treatment options available, but there were things that I could do that would assist in his brain injury recovery.
Why is hydration important?
When any individual is dehydrated, generally they may experience decreased energy, some increased forgetfulness, and some issues with concentration. For people who have recently experienced a traumatic brain injury or a stroke or TIA, this can impact their ability to complete day-to-day tasks. (Cortes-Vinceate, et. al., 2019)
If you or someone you are caring for is working on stroke or brain injury recovery and they are having something negatively impact their ability to function, like dehydration, this means they will not be able to gain the full benefits of things like their physical or occupational therapy.
How is the risk of dehydration increased after stroke or brain injury?
As someone who is a busy caregiver, and who also has responsibilities outside the home, including a full-time job, it can be easy to forget to monitor how much Mark is drinking every day. If I’m being completely honest, I probably have days that I am not taking in enough fluids.
This is for those individuals who have experienced a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or TIA, a lack of monitoring increases their risk of dehydration significantly (Leem et. al, 2018), which can lead to other health issues and complications.
One tool I have personally used for Mark as he has been recovering from his hemorrhagic stroke is by setting up a smart speaker in the room he is in most of the day. The speaker will remind him throughout the day by stopping the TV and saying “Mark drink water”. I provide him with a big water bottle at the start of the day, ensure it is filled throughout the day, and make him take it everywhere he goes.
At the beginning of his recovery, I did find this awesome water bottle with a built-in reminder to drink water:
Honestly, I have had other patients who have simply used an egg timer and just reset it every hour. Whatever works for your situation is best!
How does hydration help in recovering from a TBI or stroke?
After a traumatic brain injury, stroke, or TIA, most individuals and those caring for them work very hard to increase the odds of the best possible recovery. The first weeks and months can be overwhelming. Hydration is a simple and effective tool in assisting you in your fight to improve your outcomes.
For those who may have swallowing issues following a stroke, working with a dietician as well as speech therapy either prior to leaving the hospital or during rehabilitation increases your chances of staying hydrated, which in turn, will increase your chances of an improved outcome (Mullins, 2021).
Simply avoiding dehydration after a brain injury or stroke is a simple thing you can do. Although I know many people find it challenging to drink often enough. However, dehydration can happen quickly and if you or the person you are caring for is elderly, the consequences can become severe quickly.
How does someone become dehydrated?
Many things can contribute to dehydration, including:
Inability to get water on their own
Some individuals may have issues with swallowing, also known as dysphagia, causing them to cough and choke after eating or drinking things. This can often be resolved by working with speech therapy. If speech therapy is unable to resolve the issue, then a person may be placed on a modified diet.
This may include “thickened liquids”. This is done by adding a powder to the person’s drink to make it easier to swallow without choking. Often this may increase an individual’s risk of becoming dehydrated. They may not enjoy the consistency of the liquids or they may be offered liquids less often due to the steps needed to provide fluids.
To make it easier, there are companies who produce all ready thickened liquids. Here is a link to one product that can be found on Amazon.
Hydration is important, but there are some cases where increasing fluid intake is a NO-NO!
If you or the person you are caring for has other health issues, you may be on a “fluid restriction” meaning there is an allotted number of ounces of fluid that is allowed in a 24-hour period. It is VITAL that you follow these instructions to the letter to stay healthy.
Those who have the following conditions may be restricted in how many fluids they are able to take in:
Renal (kidney) issues, like dialysi
Sodium issues (may also be called Hyponatremia)
For those of you looking to fine-tune your hydration game, here is a free online calculator to help you determine what your water intake goals should be:
What should I be drinking to improve my hydration?
I know not everyone is a fan of water, so my best advice is to try to drink fluids that don’t have caffeine or a lot of sodium. This does include some teas and decaf coffee. I have had an argument with my own father for years. “Sorry dad, just because coffee has water IN IT doesn’t mean you can use it for hydration!”
If you absolutely do not like water, alternatives can include:
Fruit-infused water (throw some cut-up strawberries or lemons or limes in and chill)
There are also many powders and liquids you can add to your water to improve the flavor. The only warning I have about those is to check with your physician if they contain ELECTROLYTES as these may not be appropriate for all individuals.
While hydration may not be the most glamorous topic when it comes to recovery from a traumatic brain injury or stroke, it is simple but important. Changing this one thing in your daily routine may be of great assistance in your body recovering and repairing, after all, it’s been through.
As always, if you have any other questions or just need some help, I am a real person and read all my emails. Please reach out to me at:
Cortés-Vicente E, Guisado-Alonso D, Delgado-Mederos R, Camps-Renom P, Prats-Sánchez L, Martínez-Domeño A, Martí-Fàbregas J. Frequency, Risk Factors, and Prognosis of Dehydration in Acute Stroke. Front Neurol. 2019 Mar 29;10:305. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2019.00305. Erratum in: Front Neurol. 2020 Jul 17;11:717. PMID: 30984104; PMCID: PMC6450136.
Min jeong Leem, Hyun Im Moon and Kee Hoon Kim. Differences in Nutrition and Hydration Status Related to Swallowing Function and Age in Acute Stroke Patients. Journal of Food and Nutrition Research. 2018; 6(12):719-724. doi: 10.12691/jfnr-6-12-1
Mullins, Natalie BND. Nutrition and hydration management among stroke patients in inpatient rehabilitation: a best practice implementation project. JBI Evidence Implementation: March 2021 – Volume 19 – Issue 1 – p 56-67doi: 10.1097/XEB.0000000000000244