In my last post about dealing with someone with the diagnosis of a stroke, I dealt with the importance of family members spotting unusual behaviors that doctors might not recognize, and otherwise not suspect a stroke.
In this post, I would like to help you understand how to deal with someone recovering from a stroke. Once it is confirmed which side of the brain the stroke occurred, left or right, then it becomes important to figure out which part of the complex organ was affected and what part of the body will be impacted. I do not have the knowledge to get too technical on this, but when it came to taking care of my father following his surgery and subsequent strokes, I believe the knowledge I was shown from his neurologist made all the difference in the world in my father’s 100% recovery.
A stroke on the left side of the brain will affect the right side of the body, and a stroke on the right side of the brain will affect the left side of the body. One side note, if you have ever had the conversations with me where you pick on me about being left handed… this is where I developed the answer that “at least I am in my right mind.”
Back to topic. My father’s two strokes while in the hospital occurred on the left side of the brain, one in the front and one in the rear. The doctor did not get into too much detail, but this much we did know. His peripheral vision in his right eye had been affected, which would affect his walking and ability to judge area, ability to focus on conversations, and at times, see things that were not there, or believe things were happening that were not.
An important thing that was stressed to us by the doctor, my father’s hearing ability from the strokes meant that if too many people were talking, since his eyesight had been affected, he could be looking at someone to his left, but hearing the conversation from the right and think the person on the left was doing the talking. To make matters worse, if more than one person was talking around him, it would make it impossible for him to even focus on one conversation and instead mold the multiple words into one completely confusing conversation that he would swear occurred. At times, he would simply nod off or fade away while someone spoke to him. And when regaining his attention, would appear to have no idea what time he had lost in those moments. Understanding my father’s condition allowed us to talk to him, understand him, and help him rehabilitate instead of frustrate him and cause him to give up. Here are some examples.
My father would constantly swear my stepmother was in the room with us in the hospital when she was actually at home, in her own wheelchair with her caregiver while my father recovered to return to his role as her caregiver. He would actually go as far as to “look in her direction” saying she was there when clearly she was not. But my brother and I went along with the conversation so as not to frustrate him.
Then there was the first day at the rehab. Because he was fairly mobile at this point, the facility had put him in a room not exactly close to the nurse’s station. Unfortunately for him, and similarly I might add, as if it was a recreation of the environment of his home, directly across from his room (and bedroom at home) was the cafeteria (or his kitchen). Yep. He got caught in the cafeteria making himself coffee. So, the facility felt it would be better to put an alarm on him for movement as well as move him to a room directly across from the nurse’s station.
When it came to conversations, this was more difficult. As time wore on, my brother and I returned back to work, so there was a lot of time during the day for things to occur with my father. For the most part, there was good communication between the facility and my brother and I, so we were pretty much kept up on things. But as I mentioned, his ability to hear accurately created some difficult moments for everyone. I had stopped by one day after work and my father was agitated because he believed that my brother was remodeling my father’s home, without his permission and doing things he did not want done. For instance, removing the handicap ramp that my father uses for my stepmother. I argued with him for nearly half an hour trying to convince him this was not happening. I even phoned his neighbor at home to talk to my father and tell him that the ramp was still securely in place. What had happened was that there were some people talking outside of his room, about remodeling, and my father was not able to distinguish between the voices, and thought it was my brother and I.
In another example, and even more agitated, my father had believed that my stepmother was dealing with bed sores, something she has not had to deal with really since her accident. But again, a conversation outside of my father’s room left my father to believe quite seriously that my stepmother needed him for his care and he wanted out. This took a lot more time to convince him was not the case.
My father’s strokes were fortunately not severe enough to leave him with permanent lingering effects. And the timing it took to discover the strokes was also key to his recovery six months later. But what a difference it would have made had the neurologist not explained in detail the different effects of the strokes on my father and how to handle them. It clearly would have made a difference to my father’s recovery.