When you're caring for someone recovering from a stroke, one of your main goals is to help him be as independent as possible again. This checklist can help.
- If you’re helping brush his teeth, choose a toothbrush with a longer handle, and tube toothpaste with a flip-top. You may want to stock up on dental floss picks instead of regular floss. They can be used with just one hand.
- Make grooming tools and bottles easier to pick up or use with one hand. Secure them in place on the counter with suction pads. Or pour liquids into travel-size bottles that can be held and opened in the same hand.
- An electric shaver will be safer than a razor.
- Using a tub is harder and more challenging than a shower. But if you must use a tub, put a special bathtub seat at the rim so he can get in and out easier. For safety, the tub or shower should have grab bars, non-slip floor strips, a shower stool, and a hand-held showerhead.
- Make sure wheelchair brakes are on and the footrests out of the way before you help him move to the shower seat. Let him take his time. If he wants to wash himself, stay nearby in case he needs help.
- Put out bathing supplies before you start. A long-handled brush can make washing easier. He can put on a terry cloth robe and non-skid slipper socks (or aqua socks) after bathing so he doesn't need to dry off with a towel. Smooth on lotion to keep his skin from drying out.
- If you are helping her dress, tell her what you are doing first so you don't startle her. If she is dressing herself, lay out her clothes and have her sit while she's putting them on. Have a footstool there for putting on socks and shoes. She should use her strong arm to dress her weak side first and to take clothes off her weak side first.
- Dressing is easier for stroke survivors if they wear loose-fitting clothes in soft fabrics, slip-on shoes, elastic waistbands, and clip-on earrings and ties.
- If swallowing or chewing is an issue, puree foods or prepare soft foods like mashed potatoes, eggs, cottage cheese, and soup. Try nutrition drinks and liquid supplements if he is not eating enough.
- Get tools that can help. If he has trouble using regular utensils, try forks and knives with larger handles, and rubberized pads to hold plates in place.
- When you prepare meals, follow his health team's diet advice if he needs to lose weight or lower his cholesterol levels or blood pressure.
- You may not need to help her do her daily exercises. But be nearby. She may need you if she has trouble reading or remembering how to do an exercise.
- Play cards, memory games, crosswords, and other puzzles to help memory and thinking skills.
- Play music on her "neglected" side (usually the opposite side from the brain injury), so she needs to turn to hear it. A computer may have colorful visuals that also draw her attention, making her more aware of that side.
Healing from a stroke takes time -- and patience. Progress can happen over the course of a month, a year, or longer. As a caregiver, you can help your loved one keep hope, solve problems, and discover new ways of doing things.