Stroke affects the family and friends of the patient. No person or family is ever prepared for the
reality of a stroke and its consequences. Although each individual and family is different, many
people experience some or all of the following:
Confusion, shock, helplessness, grief, guilt, anger and depression are some of the many feelings family members may experience. Some feelings may be directed toward the individual with the stroke. These feelings are common reactions.
Stroke may result in behavioral changes. Stroke survivors, particularly in the early recovery phase, may engage in behaviors that are inappropriate or confusing to family members. Their loved one may not seem like the same person, and they may feel that they have “lost” him or her. As stroke survivors continue to wrestle with their own adjustment to having had a stroke, their behavior affects family members.
When a person has a stroke, family roles are often changed. Children may have to care for parents. Siblings may have to provide supervision for one another. Parents may have to resume caretaking roles. Spouses may have to give up activities in order to care for their loved ones. Family members may have to take on new roles as breadwinners or homemakers. Role changes can be difficult and family members may find themselves feeling exhausted and resentful about what they have to give up.
If stroke affects the family breadwinner, the family may experience sudden changes in income level that they were not prepared for. Even if the survivor returns to work, he or she may not be able to return to the same level of employment. Also, the costs of caring for a stroke survivor may exhaust family resources.
It can be difficult to maintain friendships when caretaking demands are high. Sadly, as the demands of caretaking continue over time, family members may find that their friends tire of providing support. Others return to the stresses of their own lives, often leaving family members and caretakers without important social support.
Sexual interest or ability may be affected. Survivors may lose interest in sexual behavior or their interest may increase. These changes can be related to psychological adjustments that have to be made to the stroke or to the physiological changes in the brain caused by the stroke. Changes in sexual behavior can be a source of stress to partners and family members in general.
Home Environment Changes.
Changes in the physical environment that need to be made to the home to accommodate the needs of the stroke survivor may also be a source of stress for family. Things as seemingly minor as making room for new equipment (such as wheelchairs or bedside commodes) may add to a family’s stress load. Building ramps or widening doorways can strain financial resources.
Stroke survivors and family members interact, and their behavior and moods influence one
another. There are some things family members can do to lessen potential stresses on the survivor,
leading to more satisfying interactions.
- Treat the person as an adult.
- Be patient; change and recovery come slowly.
- Do not make too many demands or push too hard.
- Be calm.
- Focus on what the person can do rather than cannot do.
- Be honest about the stroke.
- Surround the person with familiar things (photos, treasures).
- Talk about things the person knows about.
- Do not have too many visitors at once.
- Speak slowly with short sentences.
- Keep the person safe.