Stroke recovery can be a difficult process. It often takes constant, dedicated work to regain independence, which can be physically and emotionally draining. That’s why for stroke survivors, having a loved one there to support them through the ups and downs of recovery is critical.
As a family member or friend, you may be wondering how to best help someone who has had a stroke. In this article, we will show you a few ways you can help make the recovery process easier for your loved one.
Tips for Helping Someone Who Had a Stroke
Caring for someone with a stroke can be overwhelming, especially at the beginning of their recovery. The following are 7 tips you can use to provide extra support.
1. Learn More About Stroke
The first step to take to help someone who has had a stroke is to learn more about their specific condition.
A stroke occurs when an artery supplying blood to the brain becomes completely blocked by a clot (ischemic stroke) or bursts (hemorrhagic stroke), resulting in damaged or destroyed brain cells.
Because no two people are exactly alike, no two strokes will be the same. Your loved one’s experience will be unique, and they will not have the same stroke side effects as someone else.
The location, size, and duration of the stroke may predict the potential for recovery. Therefore, it’s beneficial to contact your loved one’s doctor to ask about the size and location of the stroke. This will guide you to provide the best care possible.
2. Don’t Do Everything
While it may be tempting for caregivers to help the stroke survivor with everything, this can slow their recovery process.
During stroke recovery, your loved one is working on rebuilding neural pathways in their brain. By rebuilding these pathways, they can regain the abilities they lost. This process is known as neuroplasticity, and it’s how the brain heals from injuries such as stroke.
However, to activate neuroplasticity, the person must engage in repetitious activity. For example, to relearn how to use their hands, they need to perform activities using their hands.
Therefore, if you are constantly doing everything for them, their brain’s will not receive the stimulation it requires, and their recovery may be limited.
3. Encourage Rehab Exercises
Caregivers may need to encourage your loved one to participate in therapy. For example, guide them to do their exercises every day.
Stroke survivors who experienced a frontal lobe stroke often struggle with planning ahead and staying on task. As a result, they may not take the initiative and do the therapy on their own.
With enough practice, the person can learn to initiate activities, but until then they will need your help.
4. Understand the Invisible Side of Stroke
When most people think of stroke side effects, the ones that immediately come to mind are physical ones such as paralysis or slurred speech.
However, many stroke symptoms are not as easily recognized. As a result, it can be tempting to think the person is fine when in fact they are not.
Fatigue, depression, anxiety, and attention deficits are all effects of stroke that can manifest in subtle ways. It might look like your loved one is being inconsiderate when in fact they are just confused.
Learning the various cognitive side effects of stroke can help you understand the behaviors of someone who has had a stroke.
5. Overcome Communication Barriers
Sometimes disorders such as aphasia or dysarthria occur post-stroke, which impairs the person’s speech. Depending on the severity of the aphasia, the stroke survivor may struggle to find the correct words or understand what you are saying.
Aphasia does not mean that a stroke survivor has lost his or her intelligence. Rather, they have lost the ability to produce the right words. If you can remember that, your interactions may be more successful.
Be patient. When your survivor has trouble understanding you, there is no need to shout. They can hear you, they only have difficulty processing words as quickly as before.
Just repeat what you said normally, and both parties will feel respected.
Related: 13 things every stroke survivor wished you knew
6. Provide Emotional Support
Many stroke survivors face devastating losses that can compromise their sense of freedom. This may explain why over 50% of stroke victims experience depression within a year of their stroke.
Your loved may express their grief in different ways. For example, they may withdraw from others, or become more irritable and frustrated. To provide them with the support they need, understand that these emotions are a normal part of the healing process. Don’t expect them to feel or act happy. Instead, help them by simply being there and lending a sympathetic ear.
You may consider taking them to a stroke support group where they can talk with other survivors and vent their frustration.
Caregiver support groups can also be a good option for family members and friends as well. Not only can you find helpful advice on caring for stroke victims, you can meet like-minded peers who may offer you guidance and emotional support for your own grief. This is an important way to avoid caregiver burnout.
7. Maintain Social Connections
Stroke survivors are often faced with isolation, either from immobility or post-stroke depression. It is important to keep them as connected to their community. Whenever someone is going through tough times, the presence of close friends and family can provide needed support.
Support your loved one with the best gift you can give: your relationship. There’s power in your presence.
Sometimes all you need to do is simply be there.
Helping Stroke Survivors on the Road to Recovery
As you can see, some steps for stroke recovery are not obvious. Sometimes, helping someone too much can actually impede their recovery. It is important to educate yourself about stroke as much as possible and we are here to help.
When you download the free e-book below, you’ll get dozens of tips on stroke recovery, along with our weekly newsletter. It’s one of the best ways to educate yourself and help someone you know who had a stroke. We hope to see you in our inbox!