According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year. Stroke risk increases with age. If you are the caregiver of a loved one who has suffered a stroke, you need to know how to care for their specific post-stroke health needs. The physical impact of a stroke can be slight or devastating, but all take great compassion in order to help your loved one recover. Here are the 5 most important things you need to know about caring for a loved one who has suffered a stroke.
1. Stroke may create weakness on one side of the body. This weakness may create problems with muscle function and movement. As a result your loved one may have trouble walking and/or grasping objects. Walking aids like canes and walkers are important to prevent falls.
2. Strokes can cause joint pain and rigidity. The joints may become very tight or lock up altogether on the side damaged by the stroke. Movement is essential to keep the joint from freezing and to make sure that it can move easily as strength returns. Range of motion exercises, recommended by a physical therapist, should be done regularly to encourage movement that will keep the joints loose. Muscle spasms may occur and if they do, inform your loved one’s doctor know right way. These may need to be addressed with medication, injections, or nerve blocks. Keep your loved one comfortable and let him or her know that the doctor is exploring effective treatments for the spasms.
3. Stroke can alter senses and spatial relationships. Stroke may cause the senior to have feel pain, numbness or tingling the limbs. It can also impair the sense of touch and the ability to feel hot and cold. Obviously, this can be very dangerous. Do not allow your loved one to try to cook. Turn down the temperature of the hot water in the home to prevent scalding.
A stroke may also cause problems with judging the position of parts of the body. This may cause difficulties in judging the distance, size, position, or rate of movement of the arms and legs. This spatial disconnect can cause tripping, falling and knocking things over.
If you are a caregiver of someone who has suffered a stroke you can learn more about stroke care and effective ways to supervise him or her at all times. It is important to ensure their safety and observe the progress of recovery.
4. Stroke can cause devastating speech and language problems. These deficits are called “Aphasia” and usually occur when the stroke damages the left side of the brain which is the language center. Some people who have aphasia may not be able to understand written or spoken language, read or write, or express their own thoughts through speech. Speech therapy may help to recover some or all of these language skills. Patience and support is essential. It will take great courage and hard work for your loved one to recover from Aphasia.
5. Recovering from a stroke can be very frustrating. Fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, frustration, grief and depression are common after a stroke. Your loved one may feel a deep sense of grief for the active lifestyle they have lost. Face these worries with your loved one. Encourage them to stay in touch with friends and invite them to visit. Help your loved one to play games with you and practice new skills.
As a caregiver, you may have to face your own fears as well. You may worry that a loved one will have another stroke or will not be able to overcome disabilities. You may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of caring for someone who has had a stroke. Local support groups can help. You can find them through local chapters of the American Stroke Association or the National Stroke Association. You can also seek out specialized at-home care< that will help to care for your loved one. You need information and support to care for a loved one who has suffered a stroke, don’t try to go it alone.