Learning how to care for a stroke patient at home is all about putting yourself in the survivor’s shoes.
It’s also important to understand the medical complications that you can help manage, and this article will guide you through it.
How to Care for a Stroke Patient at Home
Here are our top tips for stroke caregivers at home:
1. Encourage daily rehabilitation exercise
Many stroke patients struggle with motor impairments after stroke, and these need attention when the patient goes home. You can help your loved one recover by encouraging daily rehabilitation exercise to help rewire the brain. Regular movement is the best remedy for stroke.
2. Don’t do too much, but be helpful
If you see your loved one struggling to do something, only help if they ask or if absolutely necessary. Stroke patients need to do things on their own to keep getting better. Don’t shortchange their recovery by being overbearing.
3. Talk with social workers or case managers for tips
Social workers and case managers are an essential part of the stroke recovery team. Don’t hesitate to ask them any questions if you are having difficulty understanding any part of home care. They can provide you with critical information about things like home modifications and insurance coverage after discharge.
4. Talk with an OT for house modification recommendations
Stroke patients are at high risk of falling due to common balance problems or one sided visual neglect after a stroke. Making home modifications, like installing grab bars and non-slip mats, as well as decreasing clutter the home can improve your loved one’s safety.
While we have excellent home modification recommendations here on the blog, your loved one’s occupational therapist is also a great resource.
5. Keep a record of side effects from medication
Most stroke survivors are put on multiple forms of medication that each serve a different purpose (for example, blood thinners, cholesterol control, etc.).
All medications come with side effects that should be carefully monitored.
It’s an excellent idea to keep a log of your stroke survivor’s behavior and symptoms, and keep track of any changes or problems.
6. Be on the lookout for new stroke side effects
Hopefully, stroke side effects should be getting better after discharge from the hospital or clinic. However, sometimes new stroke side effects spring up months after discharge. If you notice anything unusual or different in your loved one, be sure to consult with their doctor or neurologist as soon as possible.
7. Hold faith when times get tough
Again, stroke patients should keep improving once they’re home, especially if they’re keeping up with daily rehab. However, stroke recovery is not linear. Sometimes patients take two step forwards and one step backwards. This is normal, as long as there’s a general pattern of improvement.
8. Beware of extra supplements because it could cause another stroke
Although extra supplements for stroke recovery might be seductive, always triple check with the patient’s doctor. Some supplements actually increase the risk of a second stroke – like ginko biloba. However, this isn’t directly stated on the bottle! So always do your homework before adding more pills to your loved one’s regimen.
If in doubt, don’t take it!
9. Keep pushing past the plateau
Most stroke survivors experience a ‘plateau’ after the first 3 months of recovery. This slowdown, however, is not a sign that recovery is stopping. Neurological changes stabilize after several months, but functional improvements are possible for a lifetime. The brain is capable of changing and healing decades after stroke. So don’t let yourself or your loved one be discouraged by a slowdown of results. Simply use it as a sign to revamp your rehabilitation efforts.
10. Take Falls Very Seriously
It can be difficult for stroke patients to get up off the floor, so falls should be taken very seriously. If a fall occurs, seek medical attention and rethink your home modifications – non-slip mats are essential.
Always ensure that your home is properly adapted and that your loved one has sufficient mobility (enough to get back up) before being left alone.
11. Be supportive of emotional healing after stroke
There are many emotional changes after stroke to be aware of. Sudden outbursts of crying or laughter could be the sign of pseudobulbar affect which can be treated with medication or it may resolve on its own.
Other times, stroke patients might be dealing with the anxiety, depression, or grief that naturally occurs after stroke. Try to be understanding of this challenging time.
12. Take care of the caregiver
The huge responsibility of caregiving can quickly lead to burnout if you don’t take care of yourself. If you took on too much, ask other family members to help out. You should also schedule some solo downtime into your day so that you can recharge.
13. Join support groups
It’s helpful to create connections with other stroke patients and caregivers on the road to recovery. You can look for some in your area, or join online stroke support groups for convenience.
14. Get your medical documents organized
Maintain records of your loved one’s medication, stroke side effects, and behavioral changes. Try to keep all paperwork in the same place. Always take this information with you each time you see the doctor. It is difficult to depend on your memory to remember everything that needs to be discussed with the doctor.
15. Help Manage Stroke Risks
Certain lifestyle behaviors can increase the risk of recurrent stroke. Be sure to keep blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and stress levels in check. When in doubt, talk it out with a doctor.
16. Believe in a higher recovery
As a bonus tip, know that a higher recovery is always possible. It doesn’t matter how many years have passed since stroke – the brain is constantly changing throughout life. Don’t give up if you think you’ve hit the end of the road, because you probably haven’t.
And there you have it. Those are our best tips for preparing yourself and your home for the arrival of your loved one.