The effects of a stroke, which can include paralysis, weakness, lack of balance and coordination and difficulty with speech and thinking, often prevent patients from being able to care for themselves. In many cases, stroke patients require assistance from professional home health aides, family members and friends. Those preparing to take on the role of caregiver should familiarise themselves with the steps necessary for creating a physical and social environment that will promote the patient's recovery and safety.
Many stroke patients are no longer able to provide personal care for themselves. Equip your home to suit the new needs of the patient. Begin making adjustments in the bathroom, which, of all the rooms in a home, poses the highest risk to people with physical limitations. Install grab bars onto the walls surrounding the bathtub to facilitate access. Apply non-skid decals to the tub or shower floor to add traction to the slippery floor. A rubber bathmat that suctions onto the tub surface can be used in a similar fashion.
Stroke patients may experience difficulty when getting in and out of the tub. Install a transfer tub bench, which allows users to slide into the tub while seated. To reduce the need to bend down in order to reach the toilet seat, invest in a toilet seat riser. Place this plastic device on top of the toilet seat or between the toilet rim and seat to give height to the seat. Stroke survivors often have trouble with grasping and circular hand movements, so make sure your faucet has handles that operate like levers.
The patient also may require assistance when dressing. Obtain dressing aides, examples of which include a button hook, a mirror the patient can hand around her neck, shoe horn and elastic shoe laces and a dressing stick, which helps patients to put on clothing and reach items in the closet. Keep in mind that even with this equipment, the patient may still require your help with grooming and personal care. In addition, it is a good idea to arrange for a trial home visit before the patient is discharged in case any of the adjustments to your home must be further altered.
The stroke survivor may need help eating, communicating and with household duties and leisure activities. As you provide assistance, do your best to help the patient resume a normal course of life by, for example, including the patient in conversations even if he has trouble forming words or connecting ideas.
Monitoring the Patient's and Caregiver's State
Use a journal or calendar system to keep daily track of care schedules and instructions for the patient's diet, rest, exercise, regular follow-up appointments and rehabilitative therapy sessions. Whichever system you choose, it is particularly important to clearly indicate when the patient must take any prescribed medications and the correct dosage.
You may be surprised to learn that friends and family that care for stroke patients require care as well. Schedule breaks from care giving to allow yourself to recharge physically and emotionally. Coordinate with family members and friends to fix days and times when they will take over.