7 Ways to Help a Stroke Survivor

When a friend or family member has a stroke, you know they might need help and you may want to offer a helping hand. But it can be tricky to figure out exactly what you should do when you are a friend or family member, but not necessarily part of the very close inner circle.

You don't want to step on anybody's toes by offering help, but you do want to make life a little easier.

You may also want to avoid “invading” their home or bothering them, but you want to spend a little time.

Despite the dilemma of trying to decipher the best steps you can take to help out someone who has suffered from a stroke, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-none option. Here are some simple ways you can make life a little better and a little easier for someone who is recovering from a stroke.

1. Ask what kind of music your friend or relative enjoys.

A stroke can cause motor, sensory or visual deficits, but the ability to enjoy music or art is often spared. If the stroke survivor has a computer, a CD player, or another device for listening to music, you can purchase CDs or download tunes that are enjoyable for your friend. Listening to music is one of the experiences that people who have had a brain injury can continue to appreciate. It may bring back fond memories or help with relaxation or even motivation. Music has even been found to help with stroke recovery.

2. Offer to drive your friend to do some errands.

A stroke often limits driving, which is particularly devastating.

If you offer to drive for a haircut, a shopping trip, the library, or a doctor’s visit,  you will be giving your friend a chance to get out of the house, and to have some more independence and freedom.

If you are in an area with safe accessible public transportation, you might offer to use the bus together.

3. Offer to do some handy work around the house.

Perhaps you can bring out or put away seasonal items in a hard-to-reach attic, change light bulbs, dust areas that require a ladder or carry away heavy items that need to be donated or disposed of. If you offer to program a phone with important numbers or give a tutorial on how to use an electronic device, leave some simple instructions behind as a refresher.

4. Ask what she needs and offer a specific time frame and an alternative time.

Many people have trouble asking for help, but if they know that you have carved time in your schedule (and suggested an alternative time) they are more likely to take your offer more seriously and tell you what they need.

5. Give caregiver a break.

When you are helping out, it is important to consider that there is usually a primary caregiver whose life has been dramatically changed by their loved one’s stroke. Sometimes the caregiver becomes exhausted but doesn’t want to turn over care to strangers. Your help once in a while, or even just once, can give the caregiver a much-needed break with the reassurance of knowing that their loved one is in good hands.

 6. Listen.

Stroke deficits are such an unusual experience.

People who experience a stroke are asked to describe their neurological changes to health care professionals. But often, they want to talk about their experiences beyond the medical setting. Some stroke survivors want to share what they can still do despite their weakness. Details of recovery, while usually small steps, are important and some survivors want to discuss them.

7. Ask for something.

A stroke is a life-changing event. Even those with significant handicaps still have some abilities. It is emotionally and physically challenging to adapt to a stroke. If your friend or family member has an area of expertise or knowledge and you would have asked for help or advice before his or her stroke- do not hesitate to ask after.

Don’t ignore his abilities, and try to continue to recognize him or her as a whole person. If she is an accountant, and you need advice about taxes- go ahead and ask. If he is a mechanic and you need advice about your car- it won’t hurt to ask, and the benefit to your friends may be immeasurable.

There are ways you can help a recovering stroke survivor without being intrusive or bothersome, even if you have little time to offer assistance.

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