Whether you are a family member, friend or professional, learning how to care for someone who has suffered a stroke can be really tough. Sometimes, the effects of a stroke can be life-changing and this presents a number of challenges to providing them with the right support.
When a loved one has a stroke, it can be scary. It usually happens with no warning and there’s no time to plan ahead. Post-stroke care begins as soon as they are stabilised in hospital, and when they are discharged, you may find that you suddenly need to care for someone who’s had a stroke.
We’ve put together some information and advice on stroke care.
A stroke happens when the blood supply to your brain is disrupted. There are several different types of stroke which include Ischaemic, Haemorrhagic and transient ischemic attack (ITA).
The FAST test can help you spot the signs of a stroke:
F – Facial weakness: Can the person smile? Has their mouth drooped?
A – Arm weakness: Can the person raise both arms?
S – Speech problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
T – Time to call 999: if you see any of these signs.
There are other signs of a stroke that should also be taken seriously, including sudden blurred vision, sudden weakness on one side of the body, sudden confusion or difficulty speaking and sudden dizziness or severe headache.
If you think that someone has the signs of a stroke, call 999 immediately.
Some stroke survivors make an almost full recovery. However, others are left with long term effects.
These might include:
Many of these problems can be helped with rehabilitation therapy. Issues like speech problems and continence problems may improve quickly. However, others may affect your loved one long-term.
Providing the best care for someone who’s had a stroke largely depends on their symptoms. And their needs may change over time, so you may need to adapt your routine quickly as part of their post-stroke care.
From the moment your loved one is admitted to the hospital, there will be a whole medical team there to support them. Talking to the doctors, nurses and other professionals involved in their care can make you feel more confident about looking after them when they return home.
You’ll get a care plan when they’re discharged from the hospital. Care for someone who’s had a stroke may include therapy, and you may also have referrals to district nurses, stroke nurses, occupational therapists, and other specialist teams depending on your loved one’s needs.
When your loved one returns home, they may still struggle with communication, memory or mobility. This may mean that you need to make some changes to their home.
If you have been referred to occupational therapy, they can help with aids and equipment that may be needed, including wheelchairs and grab rails. They can also advise on other adaptations that may help.
Your loved one may have been referred to rehabilitation services or occupational therapy as part of their post-stroke care plan when they were discharged from the hospital.
If you feel that your loved one needs more support, or you have any concerns about their medical care and therapy, you should raise this with their GP. They can arrange a referral to the appropriate provider.
Even if your loved one struggles with their mobility, an important part of post-stroke care is staying active.
Getting active can help with fatigue, and can reduce the risk of having another stroke in the future. This is because it can help lower blood pressure, keep the heart healthy and reduce cholesterol.
Being active doesn’t have to mean running or taking up a new sport. Walking, stretching and doing simple housework or gardening all count! Or, if they want to try fitness classes or sports, you may be able to find accessible or beginners’ sessions.
Recovering from a stroke can take a long time. This can feel discouraging, both for your loved one and you as their carer. And it can be especially hard when communicating is difficult.
It can be tempting to do everything, but this isn’t always the best solution. Encourage independence where possible, such as choosing their own clothes or helping prepare meals.
It’s important to celebrate small milestones where possible – this might mean the first time they walk unaided, or “graduating” from speech therapy.
Some stroke survivors may not be able to handle their own finances, or may not be able to communicate their decisions to solicitors or banks. If this is the case for your loved one, you may want to consider whether you or another family member should take responsibility for this.
If your loved one can still make their own decisions, they can give you – or another relative or friend – power of attorney. This will allow you to make decisions about their finances, health and property. If they no longer have mental capacity, you can apply to be their deputy.
Many people who’ve had a stroke want to remain in their own home rather than move to a care home or sheltered accommodation. Staying at home can be made easier by bringing in a Care Assistant to help. Care Assistants can help with washing, dressing, preparing food, administering medication and other needs.
Depending on your loved one’s circumstances, you may be able to get Local Authority funding to pay for care.
Employing Care Assistants can allow you to keep your relationship as your loved one’s friend or relative, rather than becoming their carer. You might want regular care or just some respite support occasionally.
Looking after someone who’s had a stroke can be difficult, both physically and emotionally. It can change your relationship with your loved one, and it’s normal to grieve for what you might have lost.
Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. Caring for someone is a huge responsibility.
Providing care for someone who’s had a stroke may involve a lot of physical lifting and moving. This can put you at risk of back pain and injury. If you notice any signs of injury, seek medical help. Your loved one’s occupational therapist may be able to advise on safe methods of moving and handling to avoid injury.
It’s important to talk to others about how you’re feeling – are there any other family members or friends who can help you? There are also local and national stroke and carer support groups who will understand what you are going through.
Remember to take regular breaks and have some time for yourself each day.
If you think that you might be feeling more tired, depressed or anxious than usual, talk to your GP.
You can get further support and advice from the stroke association.