Post-stroke symptoms such as difficulty in communicating, feeding themselves and swallowing, as well as, weakness or paralysis of body muscles make it challenging for stroke survivors to manage daily tasks such as bathing, eating and moving around. Some may also suffer from memory problems and incontinence as well as mood swings and emotional outbursts.
Due to the challenges of caring for stroke patients, some families may not be prepared to care for stroke survivors at home initially. These families may choose to place their loved ones in community hospitals such as St Luke’s Hospital, which are well-equipped with multi-disciplinary care teams and facilities for rehabilitation until the patients require less intensive care.
Once the patients’ situation stabilizes, they may return home from the hospital to continue their recovery. However, families often face many uncertainties – from an indefinite recovery timeline to handling post-stroke care at home.
Here are some tips for family members who are caring for stroke patients to facilitate the recovery process.
Tips for Caring Stroke Patients
1. Prepare the Home
One of the common consequences of stroke is a physical disability which may hinder the stroke survivors’ movements. The best way to tackle this challenge is to ensure that things are set up at home so that it is easier to help stroke patients ease into his or her everyday life.
There may be a need to modify the home environment to help stroke patients perform daily activities with lesser effort and greater independence, such as grab bars in the toilet and ramps at the toilet entrance. To ensure that stroke patients can continue to maximise their level of independence in daily activities, they may need assistive devices such as a walker or a wheelchair to help them move around.
2. Undergo Rehabilitation
Stroke rehabilitation is a critical step in the recovery process. It may start as early as 48 hours after the stroke or as soon as the patients are medically stable. The entire duration of rehabilitation could last for months or even years. Rehabilitation plays a very important role in improving stroke patients’ ability to perform their daily tasks and also reduces post-stroke complications. This includes physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and nursing care, depending on what the patient requires.
St Luke’s Hospital’s Day Rehabilitation Centre is helmed by experienced physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists whose aim is to help stroke patients regain their ability to carry out activities of daily living, such as balance and walking, eating, speech and toileting, so that the patients can have a improved quality of life and regain independence.
3. Provide Emotional Support
It is common for stroke survivors to feel anxious and depressed and in need of encouragement and emotional support as they may have lost control over everyday things that many take for granted, such as getting out of bed, taking a shower or connecting with others – and this can be difficult to cope with. Life after a stroke can be an isolating and troubling experience and many stroke survivors suffer from depression.
Family members should make an effort to empathize with them and offer companionship. Be patient and speak to them respectfully even when they express frustration or anger. For stroke survivors who are able to communicate, encourage them to connect with other survivors for support. This helps them feel less lonely and improves their emotional state. It may be a good idea for stroke patients suffering from depression to seek professional counselling or see a psychiatrist for treatment.
4. Care for the Caregivers
Caring for a stroke survivor may be demanding, especially if there are severe post-stroke complications requiring constant attention from the caregiver. Caregivers often feel fatigued and depressed from the stress of juggling caring for their loved ones and other responsibilities.
Connecting with other caregivers facing similar struggles and sharing experiences can be a good source of emotional support. They can also tap on home respite care services so that they can enjoy a well-deserved break while leaving their loved one in safe hands.
Recovering from a stroke can be a long process and it’s normal for stroke patients and their caregivers to face many challenges along the way. To hasten the recovery process, both patients and caregivers will need to be willing and dedicated to making improvements.