Q.: I suffered a stroke about five months ago, but I'm living on my own again at age 82 with occasional housecleaning help from my daughter, who drives here on most weekends. My doctor said I had done well after I completed my physical therapy, but I wonder if there's something further I can do that will improve my mobility even more.
A.: Your desire to try to return to pre-stroke function is amazing, and there might be something new that could help. Group yoga can improve motor function and balance in stroke survivors even if they don't begin yoga until six months or more after the stroke and no longer receive rehabilitative care, according to Indiana University research conducted in Indianapolis.
In a small pilot study, researchers tested the potential benefits of yoga among chronic stroke survivors whose strokes occurred more than six months earlier. The study's yoga classes, taught by a registered yoga therapist, included modified yoga postures, relaxation and meditation. Classes grew more challenging each week. Participants had to be able to stand on their own at the study's outset.
"For people with chronic stroke, something like yoga in a group environment is cost-effective and appears to improve motor function and balance," said Dr. Arlene Schmid, Ph.D., O.T.R., lead researcher and a rehabilitation research scientist at Roudebush Veterans Administration-Medical Center and Indiana University's Department of Occupational Therapy.
Balance problems frequently last long after a person suffers a stroke and are related to greater disability and a higher risk of falls, researchers said. Survivors in the yoga groups also had improved scores for independence and quality of life and were less afraid of falling. The oldest patient in the study was in his 90s.
Yoga may be more therapeutic than traditional exercise because the combination of postures, breathing and meditation may produce different effects than simple exercise, researchers said.
Best of luck on your attempts to bounce back from your stroke, but please don't try to do too much. And be sure to consult your doctor before beginning any exercise or rehabilitation program.
Your local Home Instead Senior Care office would be happy to help during your convalescence with a CAREGiver who would be able to provide light housekeeping, meal preparation, companionship, medication reminders and transportation.
Such assistance would lessen the impact of your care on your daughter, too.
For more information about Home Instead Senior Care, contact DeLauter at 866-522-6533 or go to www.homeinstead.com. The Home Instead Senior Care network's 2012 Family Caregiver Support Web Seminar Series features monthly seminars for family caregivers on a variety of topics that can help them care for their aging loved ones.
Learn more about the topics and register at Caregiverstress.com/ familyeducation.
DeLauter is the owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office in Lewisburg, which serves Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Lycoming, Clinton, Montour and Columbia counties.