5 things every Stroke Survivor wished you knew.

Only a stroke survivor can truly relate to another stroke survivor. But, that doesn’t mean that everyone else needs to feel like an outsider.

The more you understand about stroke recovery, the more you can help your loved one recover. If you are a caregiver, it’s important to educate yourself about stroke recovery to provide understanding and support.

You want to educate yourself about all available rehabilitation methods to help your loved one recover. You also want to have an awareness of using positive language. It’s going to be a long bumpy road, so try to stay as positive as you can. Always. Stroke victims pick up on every little thing, and take it extremely personally.

Stroke does not affect someone’s intelligence.

A stroke is a “brain attack” that deprives different areas of the brain of oxygen-rich blood. The damage left behind can impair different skills, like language and speaking.

This does not mean the person has lost intelligence. Rather, it means they might need more time to find the right words.

Do not shout. Do not yell. They can likely hear you just fine. Just be patient.

In fact…

Be as patient with me the twentieth time you teach me something, as you were the first.

Stroke recovery means relearning everything for the first time again. Many times that means breathing, eating, walking, sitting up. Many stroke survivors feel like they’re a child again, learning everything as if for the first time.

You would not grow impatient with a child if you were teaching them how to ride a bike for the first time, so don’t grow impatient with your loved one either. It’s a slow, but rewarding process.

No talk radio, TV, or nervous visitors.

During stroke recovery, the brain needs stimulation in order to heal itself. But it needs specific stimulation – and not too much!

For example, the stimulation of doing hand exercises is good, and playing simple strategy games such as tic tac toe help the brain rewire itself and improve hand function.

But the stimulation of background noise only drains on the limited energy that a healing brain has. Talking about, or hearing about current events is extremely disorienting right after a stroke. (I.e.- while I was in the hospital, my niece won the pinewood derby, or was in it, all I could think about was…she’s not a boy scout, this is illegal. also, coronavirus started at the same time - I had no clue what anyone was talking about. And really thought I was in a different dimension)

This is one of the reasons why mindfulness is important during stroke recovery.

Dont talk in the phone in the room with them, leave the room. And ESPECIALLY do NOT talk about them in the room while you think they’re asleep.

Limit as many unnecessary distractions as you can. Old music, or tv that they watched is perfect. It will bring back memories(making the brain work faster)

Make eye contact with me. I am in here – come find me. Encourage me.

This is probably the most important one to me personally. Eye contact is everything. I could not talk, I understood everything, but I could not form words in my mind, or anything. The second Trey got in my face, and was looking at me I knew everything was okay. I knew he was there. Prior to eye contact everything felt like a dream.

If someone avoided eye contact with you, it would probably be upsetting, annoying, and hurtful. Everyone feels that way, including stroke survivors.

In this light, you don’t need to worry about what to say to a stroke survivor. Instead, focus on how you say it: with eye contact.

I need love, both for who I have been, and for who I might become.

During stroke recovery, the goal is usually to get back to “normal.” However, there is going to be a “new normal.”

There are MANY emotional, behavioral, and even personality changes that can occur after stroke. Sometimes, the changes go away. But most times, they’re here to stay.

It’s important to find acceptance for the here, and now. Family should support their loved ones in finding this acceptance - because it is a very very hard one to accept.

You can help by loving a survivor for who they are now, instead of what was in the past. Let them talk about the past when they are ready. For me, it’s extremely emotional to talk about the past life. It’s. Very personal thing for me. I enjoy remembering the past, very much. But, I wish the past Thomas knew half of what Thomas pt 2 already knows.

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