Ask the doctors, nurses and therapists what they have found out and what is the treatment plan. Take notes. Don’t be too despondent if there is nothing you can do straight away. A period of stabilisation is important.
If the injuries mean that it is a heavy stroke and there is not much movement on one side, care has to be taken in moving the person so as not to injure them further. (See affected limb article)
Therapists such as speech and language will be very happy to inform family and friends how they can assist. Physios can give, at the right time, some gentle exercises or massage you can do with the person.
Sometimes a person with a stroke needs help to realise that one side of themselves and the world still exists – if this is the case the therapist may ask you to sit on their neglected side to encourage improvement. (see information r.e visual/sensory impairments)
Even if the person does not seem to be responding, or cannot communicate back, keep talking to them bringing messages from home or friends, try to keep positive and keep them comfortable – face wipes, chapstick, hand cream – applied gently.
Try and encourage the person if able to nod for yes and therefore ask closed yes or no questions initially if they have speech problems (see cognitive impairments)
Bring normal clothes and make up/toiletries/ shaving gear and help them to use them – they may need trained help for dressing.
Ask the staff for the person to be able to sit out of bed if possible and feel some sense of normality. Ask to be able to take them out of the ward for a change of scenery.
Ask for services if you think they are needed but not being offered – e.g. anti-depressants for low mood – a research study funded by the stroke organisation found that people who were prescribed an anti -depressant called fluoxetine had better improvement and that it promoted production of new neural pathways. (https://www.news-medical.net)
To boost mood:
Find a way to allow them to keep in touch with social contacts.
Find a way to allow them to keep doing hobbies and find ways to promote relaxation
Having their favourite music on headphones whilst in hospital.
Sometime a person following a stroke needs help with eating, it is usually possible for relatives or friends to help a person with that, even during protected meal times in the hospital. Talking through how to help a person with swallowing difficulties is very important, ask to talk to the speech and language therapist who may prescribe food to be soft or thickened. ( see professionals article and what they do)
It can be hard to be patient and not try to do too much at once. The person needs lots of rest in order to allow the neural pathways to grow – whilst asleep. There is also a grieving type process, to come to terms with what has happened and how to move forward. It can be very frustrating for the person and the family. Getting plenty of support is key, its talked about recently as ‘The Stroke Journey’, each person’s injuries and recovery is unique but talking to people with experience of it can be so helpful.
Visit the NICE (national institute for health and care excellence) guidelines website for guidance on stroke rehabilitation in adults.
Support can be found from:
https://www.stroke.org.uk/ - they can support in finding a local stroke support group
Liaise with the ward staff, they may be aware of local support group or have access to an on site Chaplaincy service to offer emotional support