How do you care for a loved one with stroke?

If you want to learn more about the stroke itself, its causes and after effects, read more in our article What is a stroke?. When a person experiences stroke, there are certain steps they and their loved ones can take to help with recovery process. For your relative with a stroke, your participation in their recovery can be very important and helpful.

In this article, we will go over what relatives can do if a family member or a close one has been hospitalized and diagnosed with a stroke. Stroke is a rather broad concept in the medical context – it hides several meanings. A stroke can be both a sudden haemorrhage in the brain or a disruption of the cerebral blood circulation. However, both diagnoses involve more or less severe movement, speech, mental and possibly cognitive impairment after recovery from initial state.

What to do to help your loved one or relative with a stroke

The most important initial step you can take to help your loved one feel better is to visit them. If they are unconscious in the intensive care unit, it is still important to do so. An unconscious person still feels and perceives their surroundings, and their state is similar to a person asleep who perceives bits of reality. Take at least 30 minutes a day to go to your loved one, talk to him, or read a book he or she loves.

How to communicate with your relative with a stroke

If your loved one is conscious or became conscious after a few days, check that they understand and recognize you. You can ask them simple questions that can be answered with a yes or a no. Asking “Do you know what year it is?” or “Do you know who I am?” can be good to test cognitive abilities in the first stage of recovery.

It is possible that if artificial lung ventilation is performed, the relative will not be able to respond vocally. However, another way of communication can be found. The recommended types are blinking, for example, one blink – yes, two – no. There are other options, such as moving your finger once or twice. These methods of communication are quite restrictive, with questions answered only in the negative or in the affirmative. If they can use one finger, it is possible to use a letter board app or similar type of app. You can obtain these in your cell phone or iPad.

In order to reduce stress for your close one, it is important to choose a communication method that fits them the most. This will reduce their feeling of loneliness and will bring awareness to you about their physical and emotional condition.

Visiting your relative with a stroke in hospital

Your relative may be transferred from the intensive care unit to the ward or is on the ward from the beginning. Either way, it is recommended you visit them daily. If it is not possible daily, try to find someone else who can visit on days you cannot. This step is necessary to follow the condition of a person close to you every day.

There is often a shortage of medical staff in hospitals. Therefore, it is important that you also get involved in the care taking of your loved one. Ask a nurse to show you how to properly do care taking routines. These may be help with getting up to a seated position and others. Also, make sure to involve other medical specialists such as occupational therapists and physiotherapists.

These skills may not necessarily be useful when your loved one gets more independent. However, you will have contributed to their recovery. Your relative may not be able to take care of themselves physically yet. Every time you visit, check whether the hygiene routines have been done such as body rinsing and change of diaper. If it hasn’t been done, call the nurse or perform the routines yourself.

Returning home

After hospital, your loved one is ready to return home. You also need to be prepared for that since this may bring changes to your loved one. Due to physical disturbances as well as cognitive and mood changes, returning home can be difficult for everyone.

Be prepared for shifts in their health condition and unsteady rehabilitation results. Recovery from stroke is not a linear process, the health of your loved one won’t be improving steadily. Instead, there will be ups and downs, with some days or weeks with more rapid improvements, others with less rapid or even worse than before. In worse times, it is important not to cheer your close one up or try to get them to be more active. The best support you can give them is to listen and be by their side. It is important to understand that your loved one may be experiencing both physical pain and emotional hardships due to their post-stroke condition. Additional pressure will not help resolve the difficult experience and mood changes they are going through.

Emotional support

A person who has experienced a stroke may feel lonely and not needed. Overdoing with care taking may make him feel disabled and helpless. Therefore, it is important to allow them independence in things they are able to do themselves. This state is dependent on both the stroke patient and their close ones. Vigo can help to actively engage the mind of the stroke patient and can help boost their recovery in abilities, thus boosting their self-confidence. In addition, there are certain ways close ones can help:

  • Offer help to your loved one if you see they are really not able to do a certain task.
  • Most importantly, ask first if they need help with this particular task.
  • Often after a stroke, the person becomes slower. Therefore, it is important not to rush them or bother with your help only because you can do something faster.
  • Allow them to take their time and soon you will see their movements are becoming quicker.
  • Allow them their independence and don’t limit them with overdoing with care taking. Of course, as long as it doesn’t endanger them or someone else around.
  • Try to motivate and encourage your loved one on their good days, however on the bad days, just be there for them. It may please them if you do some simple things together like watching a favorite movie, drinking tea together, taking a slow walk or other activities they enjoy.

Coping with stroke through mutual support

Often after experiencing a stroke, the person may go through a denial phase and rebel by trying to do everything by themselves. During this time, they may show anger if someone helps them without a previous warning or asking whether the help is needed. It is very important to be understanding and tolerant since a stroke survivor has a hard time accepting themselves, and involvement from others should be done very gradually and carefully.

In this situation, when your loved one experiences sudden changes in their health, it is important to remain calm as much as you can and try to accept that this state is temporary. It may undoubtedly leave marks in your family life or relationship, however with mutual support and patience you can do a great deal to cope with this situation as well as possible.


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