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Getting Back Behind The Wheel After Stroke

Getting Back Behind The Wheel After Stroke

The ability to leave the house and go places can be affected after having a stroke. Not being able to drive can be especially frustrating, as this impacts your independence and daily routine. However, it is imperative that stroke survivors recover properly before getting back behind the wheel. Driving involves many skills that may be affected by stroke, such as muscle movements in the foot and leg, perception, vision, judgment, emotion, energy levels, and other side-effects

The first step to getting back in the driver’s seat is getting evaluated by a driver rehabilitation specialist (DRS). These specialists are trained in working with drivers who have disabilities. The evaluation includes a vision test and a perception test to check your reactions.

To find a driving rehabilitation specialist in your area, contact the Association of Driver Educators for the Disabled (ADED) or the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). 

Helpful Car Tools

There are different types of adaptive equipment that can help you drive again, which your DRS can train you on how to use. A spinner knob can be attached to the steering wheel, which allows you to control the steering with one hand. You can also insert hand controls for the gas pedal and brake. If you have lost the ability to use your right foot, you can insert a left-foot pedal to drive the car. In addition, some people benefit from wheelchair or scooter lifts which help you get inside the vehicle.

Things To Think About

Once you are cleared by a specialist to be able to drive around town, make sure you ask yourself these questions:

  • How easy is it to get to the place I’m going to?
  • Are there handicapped parking spots there?
  • How far is the parking lot from the entrance?
  • Are there ramps leading to the building?
  • Are there stairs leading to the building? 
  • Is there an elevator in the building? 
  • Is the doorway large enough to fit a wheelchair? 
  • Will a wheelchair fit in the bathroom stall? Do the stalls have grab bars? 

Make sure you know exactly where you are going to prevent any difficult situations. If you think you may need assistance where you are headed, ask a loved one or caregiver to come with you. You can never be too safe.

Extended Car Trips

If you feel that you are ready to take a longer road trip, make sure to check with your doctor first. They may give you special travel tips that can help you. It is a good idea to call places ahead of time and ask about accessibility, whether it’s a hotel, restaurant, attraction site, or different forms of transportation (buses, trains, planes, etc.). 

If you are staying at a hotel, you can call ahead and request a room that is located close to the elevator, as well as one with a walk-in shower. You can call the airline in advance about aisle seats (if you need to stretch or extend your legs), seats with more legroom, or special meals. You can also reserve a rental car with special hand controls or wheelchair accessibility. 

Remember to bring all of your medications with you and store them in one place; many people find it easy to keep a toiletry bag with all of their medications, as it can easily fit into purses, backpacks, carry-ons, or other bags. In addition, make a list of all the medications you must take, along with any allergies, and keep it in your wallet. Keep your health insurance card in your wallet as well.

Most importantly, don’t stress your body out. Make sure to plan time for rest and relaxation. Traveling can be stressful, both mentally and physically.

Unable To Drive?

Some stroke survivors are unable to drive, even after recovery. You may have a hard time turning the steering wheel, using your hands, or thinking clearly about the cars around you. If this is the case, there is no need to worry. Stroke survivors are able to maintain their independence by using uber or lyft, taxis, shuttle buses, trains, and subways. 

If you live in an area where things aren’t too far away, you may be able to walk from place to place. This not only exercises the body but can also relax the mind. You may be able to ride a scooter from place to place, which can be a faster mode of transportation.

If you or a loved one have suffered an ischemic stroke, learn more about CBC Health’s stem cell stroke treatment. Our low-risk, non-invasive treatment can speed and improve recovery, helping you get back to normal activities.

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