How to care for a stroke patient at home
Stroke aftercare can have a huge impact on your loved one’s recovery. According to the NHS, “the injury to the brain caused by a stroke can lead to widespread and long-lasting problems.” However, the right care at home can allow your loved one to regain as much of their independence as possible. It is important to understand that there is no time limit, “this process of rehabilitation depends on the symptoms and severity.”
Caring for a stroke patient at home has many benefits. Being around familiar surroundings, close to loved ones and personal belongings can have a positive impact on the mind, body, and spirit. Plus, it’s a place where people spend most of their time and feel safe and secure. Here are a few tips on how you can care for your loved one in their own home.
Consult with professional carers and nurses for tips
It is always important to seek advice from a healthcare professional. Whether it’s a carer, doctor, nurse, or pharmacist, having extra advice will not only help your loved one but will also provide you with the reassurance of knowing you are caring for them in the best possible way.
Professional carers have hands-on experience on how to look after stroke patients, so getting tips on aftercare is a great source of information. Whether you need advice on personal care or mobility, it’s always a good idea to seek advice before providing care for your loved one.
Be helpful, but don’t do too much
It is natural to want to do things for your loved one to make their life easier, but it is important to promote independence and encourage them to carry out certain tasks themselves. It can get frustrating for your loved one, especially when things like getting dressed may take longer due to their condition. Encouraging them to do things by themselves with additional support will help with their recovery and boost their confidence. If they are struggling with getting dressed or household duties, then ask if they need help. Try not to take over, just offer additional support.
The Stroke Association advises that your loved ones should take on family responsibilities from the start. “You may need to find new roles that are manageable to help boost their confidence and maintain their relationships with other family members.”
Encourage daily exercise routines
The NHS states “strokes can cause weakness or paralysis on one side of the body and can result in problems with co-ordination and balance” which is why physiotherapy and exercise are recommended to help improve muscle strength and “overcome walking difficulties.” Regular movement is crucial to help with recovery. You may want to start with simple exercises like picking up an object and putting it down and then move on to more intense exercises.
It is important to take things slow and get advice from healthcare professionals like physiotherapists before starting any exercises with your loved one, as you don’t want to do anything too strenuous.
Be vigilant for new stroke side effects
During the recovery process, your loved one may experience new stroke side effects. According to Life Changing Medicine at UPMC, common physical conditions include numbness, problems with balance of coordination, depression, anxiety and memory problems. You may find that your loved one has side effects from certain medications. If so, contact your GP to get advice on what to do.
Support emotional healing
As a carer, it is important to be sympathetic to your loved one’s needs. Having a stroke does not just impact the patient physically, it influences their emotional well-being too. It can also be a frustrating journey for some. So, having a positive outlook can help. The Stroke Association states “recovering from stroke is a slow process and so your praise is needed for every sign of progress, however small.” Providing extra reassurance will not just give them confidence but it will also aid their mental upkeep.
There will be ups and downs throughout the recovery process and supporting them through this can be difficult. As well as supporting your loved one, it is important to look after yourself too. Try and get friends and other family members involved to help with care. That way you can take time out to recharge your batteries.
Beware of extra supplements
Certain supplements can help with recovery. According to the National Library of Medicine, “accumulated data suggest that nutritional supplements and neuroprotective diets can be associated with better effectiveness of post-stroke rehabilitation as well as brain recovery.” This includes vitamin D. However, some supplements can cause harm. Before taking any type of supplement you must consult a GP to ensure your loved one’s symptoms don’t get worse.
Push past the recovery plateau
Although it may feel that your loved one’s recovery has come to a standstill or is taking longer than you thought, it is common for stroke patients to experience a plateau after the first three months of recovery. Do not feel discouraged, it is possible to push past this plateau and continue to work on your loved one’s recovery. Continue to support them with their exercise routine and keep their mind active. Work with healthcare professionals, so they can provide exercises that can help promote long-term recovery.
Also, try and keep your loved one motivated, as it is natural to feel disheartened especially if they don’t see results straight away. Reassure them that this stage will pass.
Organise medical records
It is important to keep medical records up to date and note down any side effects that your loved one may have from any medication they are taking. Make sure you also monitor changes in behaviour. Having medical records in order will also help to measure your loved one’s progress.
It may be a good idea to keep medical records and notes in a separate folder, so you can take them when you accompany your loved one to their medical appointments.
Believe in recovery
Never give up hope. We understand that you won’t see instant results overnight, the recovery process can vary. The Stroke Association states “the quickest recovery takes place in the days and weeks after a stroke. But recovery can continue for months and years after a stroke.” Always praise your loved one for their achievements no matter how big or small they are, as every improvement is a step in the right direction. This will not only boost their confidence but will also motivate and encourage them mentally and physically.
Page reviewed by Deanna Lane, Senior Clinical Lead on October 21, 2022