Changes in Thinking and Behavior After Stroke

A stroke can affect the way you think and cause a variety of cognitive impairments. For example, damage to the left side of the brain may lead to problems processing words. Damage to the right side of the brain may lead to impaired memory, poor judgment and difficulty concentrating.

Some effects from stroke can be subtle and may be difficult to detect at first. Some changes to watch for include:

  • Memory loss. It may take longer to recall certain things. You may have difficulty with numbers and calculating, or handling money or balancing a checkbook. Or, you may have trouble finishing a sentence or completing a task.
  • Poor judgment. Your insight, self-awareness and decision-making capacity may be affected. This means you should not drive a car or operate any machinery (including small appliances). You should be accompanied when walking outdoors or near stairways. You may become impulsive, so you should be guided when making important decisions. A neuropsychologist can help you deal with these types of issues.
  • Concentration. Problems with concentration are common after stroke. If this affects you, social situations may be especially difficult.
  • Sensory function. If your sensory functions — sight, hearing, smell, touch or taste — are impaired, you may appear to others to be unresponsive.

Recognizing and understanding these issues are important during stroke recovery. These challenges can be addressed by your care team. In many cases, your rehabilitation team will develop strategies to help you improve in these areas.