This series of blogs isn’t meant to elicit sympathy but hopefully to inform and create awareness. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.
This next part are my own personal suggestions from my own personal experience.
When you have a stroke your abilities, can and will, change. I was extremely lucky in that only my balance and vision were affected. Balance came back pretty quickly, but vision continues to be an issue. As I told the numerous doctors I saw during my stay in the hospital, it was like my eyes were fighting with each other to focus on anything. I could see things in the distance clearly, but things around what I was focusing on, or things closer to me, were difficult to focus on.
This remains an issue, although it should get better as my brain rewires itself. My true topic here is how to assist those who’ve had a stroke, when they return home. People do not like to lose their independence and, since I live alone most of the time, I was concerned others would be asked to adjust their lives to take care of me. Again, I was lucky in that this was not the case, but some short term accommodations did need to be made.
Standing for a long time or bending over was, and still is sometimes, an issue. I quickly found out that turning to the left, or laying down on my left side (the bleed was in the back left section of my brain), caused me to become instantly and overwhelmingly nauseous and it wasn’t a matter of when I was going to be sick, but how quickly I could get to the bucket. I soon learned not to do this and things got a lot better.
My suggestions; when someone you know has a stroke and is ready to return home, speak to them, speak to their doctors, speak to whomever you can, and find out their limitations. I didn’t have many. That along with my own stubborn nature, probably made people think I could do a lot more than I really could.
Things that are needed and/or greatly appreciated; prepared meals set high in the fridge so that the ‘patient’ can reheat them for themselves, but not have to bend to do so; food that doesn’t have to be cooked is also a wonderful thing ( I found Lunchmates a great idea). Lots of fresh fruit around that can be grabbed for a quick snack. Bottles of juice, Gatorade, water or whatever in the fridge so that the ‘patient’ keeps hydrated. Dropping by to do even mundane things like chat, or just sitting with them, wash up the dishes, pull weeds from the garden or, if they are able – to take them for a drive (four walls close in quickly), although I seem to spend an awful lot of time sleeping these days. Think of the patient’s personality, are there things falling by the wayside that might stress them if they saw how they looked now? I hadn’t been in my backyard for a month after my stroke, simply because I knew how overrun it would be and bending over was still a balance issue. I knew I’d want to pull weeds and clean up the gardens and not being able to would stress me out, so I simply avoided it.
If they don’t live alone, just spend time with them and allow whomever is caring for them some time for themselves. If the patient can be left alone for a while, take their caretaker out for a drive, lunch, whatever….give them some time away from care taking.
I’m now trying to do the dishes at least once a day, although the damn things can dry themselves. I’ve been in the backyard once, and picked a slew of tomatoes, lots more will be rotten by the time I get out there again but I hope to go out tomorrow with my daughter and get her to help me trim them back, and we’ll pick what we can. I’m not going to worry about it looking perfect (believe me…that’s a HUGE step for me).
The main thing when someone has a stroke, don’t assume anything. Don’t assume they can’t do anything, or they can do everything. Talk to them, and REALLY listen. I’ve always been bad for say, “Oh sure, I can take care of that.” Even when I know I’ll struggle. I have learned that, while I may still be able to do it, there is nothing wrong with asking for help. I listen to my body more, and my brain, and make sure not to push myself further than I should. I’ve had more than my share of lectures in the last month. I’ve heard you people….and I’m listening!