Farming After a Stroke

O​hio AgrAbility Fact Sheet Series
AEX-982.2
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Date: 
01/26/2012
S. Dee Jepsen, Assistant Professor, State Safety Leader, Agricultural Safety and Health, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University
Kent McGuire, Ohio AgrAbility Program Coordinator, Agricultural Safety and Health, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University
Danielle Poland, Student Intern, Agricultural Safety and Health, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University

"Rehabilitation is a lifetime commitment and an important part of recovering from a stroke. Through rehabilitation, you relearn basic skills such as talking, eating, dressing, and walking. Rehabilitation can also improve your strength, flexibility, and endurance. The goal is to regain as much independence as possible." —National Stroke Association

Farming is a demanding occupation even for a person in the best of health. After a stroke you will be able to return to farming with some modifications. You cannot expect to be able to do everything the same way as before. If you are an owner/operator, it will take time for you to manage the farm in the same capacity. You may need more assistance from family members or a farmhand with chores or bookkeeping. Take your time recovering and do not overwork yourself. After a stroke rehabilitation is the most important thing.

After returning home you should consider having an occupational therapist come out to the farm to make suggestions about assistive technology that can make recovery easier for you.

Some suggestions from an occupational therapist may be:

  • Widen passageways where possible so on the days you are having trouble walking it is easier for you to use a cane, walker, or wheelchair.
  • Add/adjust lighting to decrease glare.
  • Make a safety checklist to prevent secondary injuries.
  • Identify different places handrails can be installed.
  • Suggest different faucet handles that take less effort to use. Many faucets can use lever handles or long extensions, so you can turn water on and off with a fist or an arm movement.
  • Concentrate rehabilitation efforts towards specific tasks such as driving or grasping tools, and utilize adaptive equipment or special technology to assist in specific tasks.

A stroke has many effects on the survivor:

Trouble thinking—Most stroke survivors will have a hard time thinking afterwards.

  • Form a routine to help with memory loss.
  • Break tasks down into steps to avoid doing too many things at once.
  • Make two lists: one list of tasks that need to be done on a daily basis, and one list of ongoing tasks that need to be completed, but have no specific deadline. This second list will likely carryover into seasons and will need to be re-prioritized regularly.
  • Put things back in the same place after every use.
  • Make a list of items to buy or tasks to complete.

Part of slowed cognition is trouble communicating.

  • Speech and language therapists benefit most stroke survivors.
  • Draw or write things on paper when you get tongue-tied.
  • Take your time. Call people when you have time and are not rushed.
  • Stay calm and take one idea at a time.
  • Create a communication book that includes words, pictures, and symbols.
  • Try e-mailing sales representatives, or delegate phone calls to a family member or employee.

Sleep disorders after a stroke result in tiredness, irritability, and trouble thinking and solving problems. Lack of sleep can increase blood pressure, heart stress, and blood clotting, all raising the risk of another stroke. It is important to treat any sleep disorders before returning to the farm. Being drowsy around equipment, power tools, and chemicals can be deadly for yourself and other people around you. Treatments for sleep disorders include losing weight, avoiding alcohol, not using sleep medications, and not sleeping on your back.

Pain may be mild, moderate, or severe. It may be constant or come and go. It may only be on one side of your body. It may be aching, burning, sharp, stabbing, or itching. Central pain, always the side of your body affected by the stroke, worsens with heightened emotional stress, cold, or excessive movement.

  • Utilize stress managing techniques.
  • Schedule outside work during the warmest part of the day in winter months.
  • Take frequent breaks to prevent tiredness and overworking sore muscles/joints.
  • If the pain becomes unbearable, ask for help completing chores.
Fatigue, just like a sleep disorder, needs to be addressed before returning to the farm. Most stroke survivors experience high fatigue.
  • Ask your doctor or therapist how to regain and keep your energy.
  • Do not overexert yourself and plan time in your daily schedule to rest frequently.
  • Stand up slowly to avoid a dizzy feeling.
  • Eating a well-balanced diet, even if eating does not sound appealing, and solving any sleeping or pain issues can help manage fatigue.

Safety Tips

  • Keep a phone within reach.
  • Program emergency numbers in your cell phone and write them down in large print on index cards for all the buildings and vehicles.
  • Keep all travel paths clear of objects at all times; 40% of stroke survivors suffer a serious fall within a year after the stroke.
  • Exercise caution when mounting or dismounting equipment.
  • Take frequent breaks.

Acknowledgments

This fact sheet was reviewed by Karen Mancl, PhD, Professor, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University; Josh Svarda, Program Coordinator, Easter Seals Work Resource Center; and John Zeller, Rural Rehabilitation Specialist, Ohio AgrAbility.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. cdc.gov/stroke

National Stroke Association. stroke.org


About AgrAbility Based Fact Sheets
These fact sheets were developed to promote success in agriculture for Ohio's farmers and farm families coping with a disability or long-term health condition. AgrAbility offers information and referral materials such as this fact sheet, along with on-site assessment, technical assistance, and awareness in preventing secondary injuries. Fact sheets were developed with funding from NIFA, project number OHON0006.

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