Caring for Stroke Patients: Ten Tips from the Experts

Article Categories: Diseases & Tips and Tricks

Stroke is a condition that occurs when the brain’s supply of oxygen is cut off. It can happen when an artery becomes blocked by plaque (ischemic stroke), or when a blood vessel within the brain ruptures (hemorrhagic stroke). In the United States, someone suffers from a stroke every 40 seconds.

Caring for a stroke survivor can be one of the most challenging assignments for a CNA. Depending on which part of the brain is affected, the patient can experience a range of disabilities. According to the American Stroke Association, here are some effects that will determine the type of support needed:

Right Brain:

• Paralysis of the left side of the body and face
• Vision problems
• Memory loss
• May not be aware of the deficits

Left Brain:

• Paralysis of the right side of the body and face
• Speech and language problems (aphasia)
• Memory loss
• More prone to depression

About 25% of patients will make a good recovery with some impairment. Ten percent will be able to return to independent living, and another 10% will require long-term care in a facility. During the initial phase of illness and rehabilitation, many patients will be in assisted living or skilled care units, as well as receiving home health visits. Here are ten tips from other direct caregivers that may help patients during this vulnerable time:

1. Noise-canceling headphones can help filter distracting sounds. They can be soothing and minimize the anxiety from sensory overload.

2. During bathing, give the patient a bath mitt--found in baby departments--to wear on the affected hand. The mitt makes it easier to wash the other side of the body.

3. Ask the patient to close her eyes when trying to button a shirt or pants. It keeps the brain from trying to “see” and allows long-term memory to take over.

4. For those who love reading, try audio books.

5. If the person has aphasia, assume that hearing and comprehension are still intact, and continue to speak in a normal manner. Always talk “to” the person, especially when others are present.
6. Instead of using a spoon for feeding, try a flexible plastic cup. Find out the patient’s normal meal preferences: a big breakfast or dinner eater? That will help you know when the best feeding times are.

7. Don’t be overprotective. Allow the patient to be as independent as possible, while remaining safe.

8. Place a soft foam or rubber ball in the affected hand for squeezing during the day.

9. Encourage the family to include the stroke survivor in as many activities as possible.

10. Celebrate every bit of progress. Applaud and cheer! By remaining positive, you are supporting the patient in a fundamental, emotional way.

As a direct caregiver, you are an essential member of the stroke care team. Your daily observations can detect even the smallest change, and can affect the treatment plan. Recovery from a stroke can last for years, and your part in the early process can make all the difference.

Try reviewing the course material on negative effects of immobility from our course library.


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