Helping stroke patients at home is a challenging task that not everyone can perform. You need to have a lot of patience, understanding, and the eagerness to help your loved one on their journey to recovery. Aside from the patient care task itself, there will be more changes to your daily routine.
7 Caregiver Tips Specific to Stroke Patients
Not knowing the proper way of dealing with and taking care of stroke patients will result in frustration, which is not good for either of you. To be an effective caregiver, here are some tips that you can follow as you help the patient recover at home.
#1 – Understand Personality Changes
The first thing that you should tell yourself is to have patience and understand the patient when it comes to their emotional and attitude/behavior. People recovering from a stroke will have noticeable changes in their personality after the experience.
Physical impairments are not the only changes that stroke patients can suffer from, but emotional and cognitive changes may also manifest. The personality changes they suffer is due to the tissue damage caused by the stroke.
Our personality and the different parts of our body are controlled by the different parts of our brain. The severity and the site affected by the stroke determines the patient’s personality change. Additionally, stroke patients tend to behave inappropriately following the stroke, which is called the Pseudobulbar Affect. You will notice the patient will cry or laugh uncontrollably and inappropriately.
This behavior is seen in individuals who have certain neurological conditions or injuries like stroke. The Pseudobulbar Affect is treatable with certain medications, or it can go away on its own.
Stroke patients also experience depression, grief, and anxiety. This is common among stroke patients, and it should not be taken for granted. Always motivate the patient and tell them that they will go back to normal; they just need to undergo a rehabilitation process. Your encouragement will be needed by the patient more during the plateau of the recovery, which will surely put the patient in a depressed state.
#2 – Support the Patient Physically
Aside from the emotional support, you should give the patient, what they also need from you is to support them physically. Following a stroke, the patient will have physical impairment like motor skills in the upper and lower limbs.
Simple activities such as eating, dressing, and writing can now be difficult for the patient to accomplish. It is also expected that the stroke patient will have difficulty walking, which is why they will need you to assist them every time they walk. Make sure to hold the patient firmly and support their back in case of a fall. It is also best to clear your floor of any objects that the patient can trip on.
Falling is also the most risk a stroke patient faces when they try to do physical activity, trying to prove they can still do their everyday tasks on their own. Stroke patients should also be assisted during bath time as they might fall during a bath, and it would be dangerous.
Remember to stay safe yourself when physically helping stroke patients. If you get injured in caregiving, your ability to provide continued care could suddenly come to an unexpected halt, complicating recovery even more. Know how to perform these tasks safely.
Lastly, make sure that you are not over helping. You want to be supporter and provide care, but not at the expense of recovery. Helping stroke patients sometimes means letting them help themselves.
#3 – Monitor Medications
You can consult the patient’s physician to be familiar with all the medicines needed by the patient. You also need to ask what medicine should be given in case of an emergency. You should also ask for the schedule of when a certain medication should be given.
You also need to check the side effects of all medications. It’s probably that your loved one will receive new prescription drugs, each intended to treat a different aspect of stroke recovery. Make sure your doctor has full knowledge of everything being taken by the individual. That includes over the counter supplements.
You can also talk to the patient’s physician about a discount coupon to save money on your medication purchase. There will be a lot of expenses you will encounter during the rehabilitation. After you figure out which medication to take and at what times, you need to organize the medicine according to the schedule for an easy administration.
#4 – Watch Own For Signs Of Stroke Recurrence
The recurrence of stroke is possible, so as the primary caregiver, you should closely monitor the patient. A study published in NCBI, found that stroke has the possibility of recurring 3.4% within the first 90 days, 7.4% within the first year, which then would skyrocket to 19.4% within five years.
Watch for signs of a stroke, and do not hesitate to call for help in case you notice the following signs:
- Sudden Vision Trouble
- Trouble speaking
- Difficulty in walking, balance, and coordination
- Numbness or weakness of the face, legs, arms which is only felt on one side of the body
- severe headache
- Difficulty in swallowing
Generally, the side effects of a stroke should get better as time goes by, but sometimes they may reoccur. Visit your doctor if you see any worrying signs.
#5 – Give the Patient Healthy Food
A person is more vulnerable after experiencing a stroke, so they should watch out for what they consume. As the caregiver, make sure that the patient only eats healthy, safe food options. If you need to offer puree feeds, read our article on the subject. It may have additional advice worth considering.
You can consult a dietician to know what is best for the patient and what is not. However, if you stick to a low-fat, more fiber, and more omega-3 diet, you can be sure the patient is receiving a proper diet appropriate to lower their cholesterol level.
#6 – Modify Your Home as Needed
You can make your life, and your loved one’s life, much easier if you live in a home that is modified to support limited mobility and the challenges that come with stroke recovery. Stroke patients are often at a much higher risk of falling.
Grab bars, non-slip mats, improved lighting, cleared hallways, etc. are all modifications that can be made by the homeowner or with hired help. I wrote a book specific to home modifications for people with Alzheimer’s Disease, but many of the suggestions in that book would also apply to people recovering from a stroke. Check it out: Staying Home: A Caregiver’s Guide to Making Your House Alzheimer’s Safe.
#7 – Take Care of Yourself
You know how when you get on a flight and the stewardess runs through the safety protocols, advising you that, should the oxygen mask drop, put your own on before helping others? There’s a reason for that. You can’t be a caregiver if you also need care. You have to take care of yourself first. This isn’t being selfish, it’s being practical. Taking care of yourself makes you a better, more reliable caregiver.
What this means, and I know it might sound easier to say than it is to implement, is taking time for yourself. Make sure you carve out time to do the things you enjoy. Find ways to destress. You may have to rely on others to provide caregiver respite. You may, if you’re financially able, want to pay for caregiver assistance. You could also consider finding a caregiver support group to join.
It is not easy to take care of a stroke patient, but you need to do your best to help your loved one survive and help them return to their previous self before the stroke ever happened. Always be mindful of all the given guidelines as it may help you overcome the struggle of being the caregiver.
Following are a few books that can help you as a caregiver provide care for stroke patients at home:
- Fast Facts for Stroke Care Nursing: An Expert Care Guide by Kathy Morrison MSN
- When Your Spouse Has a Stroke: Caring for Your Partner, Yourself, and Your Relationship by Sara Palmer
- Working Daughter: A Guide to Caring for Your Aging Parents While Making a Living by Liz O’Donnell
Do you have experience providing care of this type at home? Help others by offering advice, thoughts, or experiences in the comments section below. Helping stroke patients at home is not easy work, so support from others is always appreciated.