When a loved one has a stroke, you may find yourself in uncharted territory. Here, we offer advice to help you navigate life after a stroke, from rehabilitation to lifestyle changes.
Caring for a friend or family member who’s had a stroke can be a hefty challenge. You are now confronted with a role you’ve likely never had before. These six tips will help you get your bearings.
1. Become Stroke Smart - After a stroke, you’ll enter a new world with unfamiliar words, people and routines. So it’s easy to understand why lack of knowledge is one of the biggest initial hurdles you’ll face. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn — talk with the patient’s healthcare team every chance you get and attend support groups.
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2. Get to Know the Team - Become familiar with the doctors and nurses caring for your loved one. This team will likely be headed up by a neurologist, who can guide you through the recovery process. Don’t be shy about asking questions!
3. Advocate for Rehab - One of the most important parts of recovering from a stroke is rehabilitation, which can help your loved one regain independence. Work with the doctor to ensure that rehab is part of the recovery plan after being discharged from the hospital. Then show your loved one support by attending a few therapy sessions with them. Encourage the practice of new skills, but try not to be overbearing or intrusive — allow the person to learn and do things for themselves.
4. Write It All Down - As the caregiver, you’ll likely be tasked with coordinating healthcare needs, such as medications and rehab appointments. Writing it all down can help you stay organized. Plus, keeping a notebook on hand (or using an app on your phone) makes it easy to jot down questions as they come up, as well as take notes during appointments.
5. Create a Safe Place - Coming home from the hospital after a stroke can be a scary time for both you and the patient. Ask your care team what you can do to make your home safer. You may need to move the bedroom to a lower level to avoid stairs, remove rugs to prevent falls or install grab bars in the bathroom to help with stability.
6. Help Prevent Another Stroke - People who have already suffered a stroke are at higher risk for having another one, so be sure to encourage lifestyle changes that lower your loved one’s risk. Enjoy healthy, low-fat meals together, work exercise into your daily routines, and help the patient remember to take medications and keep doctor appointments.