How to create a safe home after a stroke?

Stroke is one of the most common causes of functional disability in the world. The movement and cognitive disturbances that it causes can manifest differently. The after effects a stroke survivor may experience are aphasia (inability to perceive spoken or written language), vision problems (from partial impairment to overall worsening vision), paresis (weakness) in one side of the body, spasticity (increased muscle tension) in arm or leg which can significantly affect the range of motion or the ability to control it. A stroke survivor may experience balance and coordination disturbances as well as memory loss. In this article, we will cover why home adjustment after stroke is important for a better and safer recovery.

Surely, the extent and types of consequences after experiencing a stroke depend on several factors. Those include age, the magnitude of the stroke experienced, other existing health conditions as well as which side of the brain has been affected. Each of these factors affect both the type of disturbances caused by a stroke and the extent of functional limitations which can either be permanent or temporary.

Rehabilitation at home

The first stage of treatment is at an inpatient emergency treatment facility where the patient spends two to three weeks. In certain cases, it can take more time. The next step in recovery is rehabilitation at an inpatient or an outpatient facility, or at home. All the mentioned rehabilitation types foresee that the patient will soon be able to return back home. The rehabilitation process will also continue at home or on an outpatient basis after receiving treatment in rehabilitation centers. Therefore, we encourage that you create the best recovery environment possible for yourself or your loved one. This will ensure that recovery can be continued without unnecessary stress and obstacles.

Before returning home, consult with your occupational therapist. They will help you address questions regarding home accessibility. During the consultation, find out what functional limitations you face after experiencing a stroke. This will allow determining what would be the best solution to relieve your daily life.

Why home adjustment after stroke is important

There are several obstacles that a person faces after a stroke, which can be little details in daily life. For example, after experiencing a stroke, a person may need a threshold that is a couple inches high or a carpet by their bedside. The details you may want to change around your house depend on the functional limitations you are experiencing. In case of impaired fine motor skills, a person may experience discomfort or lots of extra effort if the spoon handle is too thin or the table top is too slippery. A home that is not well adjusted or fairly well adjusted often influences the rehabilitation process and the patient’s motivation. This can affect recovery in a negative way, causing a fall, burning oneself or other traumas.

Practical suggestions for home adjustment after stroke

  • Remove all unstable and fragile objects at the house as well as furniture that can potentially cause the stroke patient to fall.
  • If the table top at your house is slippery, you can use rubber or silicone mats to prevent dishes from falling.
  • If it is not possible to level the threshold for the shower or to install a bathtub, you can attach a special handle in the shower to ease showering or bathing.
  • To minimize the risk of falling when you get up from a seated position, attach a handle at the toilet.
  • In case of difficulty balancing, a stroke survivor might experience difficulties to get up from and sit down on the toilet bowl. You may want to get a toilet lid with a raised edge.
  • If you have high shelves that you need to use daily, you should install a handle such that you can reach them safely.
  • If the thresholds in your house are high (higher than 1.5 cm), remove them or level them with the floor.

It might be wise to create “safe paths” around your house to get around the areas you visit the most. These will be obstacle-free routes from your bed to, for example, your bathroom and kitchen.

More tips for home adjustment after stroke

  • If you need to climb stairs daily, install another stair handle that is lower than the existing one.
  • If you need to use a wheelchair and the doorways are narrower than 90 cm, you will have to widen them.
  • Remove power wires and cables that may obstruct walking around the house.
  • If you are experiencing vision impairments, it may be wise to use scotch tape in bright color to mark your “safe paths” and use them on the edges of the stairs, etc.
  • If your vision is severely impaired after experiencing a stroke, you will need more light around the house. You may want to switch your light bulbs for brighter ones.
  • To ease the daily life for a stroke survivor, you might also want to use some technological solutions. You might want to use sensors, safety alarms, rechargeable devices that replace disposable batteries, etc.

Make your home more accessible

To modify your home in a better way and to make it more accessible, you may need some reconstruction work done around your house or to buy some new furniture. If you need to use a wheelchair for a prolonged time, you should get a ramp or a stair lift. If the stroke patient lives in an apartment building without an elevator, it should also be ensured that the building has one. These adjustments are usually financed by municipalities, therefore contact the office of social services about this option.

The rehabilitation process and limitations of each stroke patient is unique, therefore the adjustments needed around the house might also differ. These are some of the most general housing adjustments you can perform which can be achieved with fairly small financial and labor input.

Some patients might need these adjustments for a longer period of time, some a shorter time. However, the rehabilitation process should also be continued once you think you have already reached your best state. Such that the recovery process doesn’t stagnate, it is important to continue doing the rehabilitation exercises and follow the recovery plan that you have created with your doctor at home, throughout the whole rehabilitation process, as much as possible.

For this, you can also seek help from Vigo which is the only digital therapy tool for stroke available so far. It helps you with physical and emotional recovery at the comfort of your home. Read more about Vigo on the website and sign up at hello@vigo.health.