How to help with a stroke patient

Q. My dad recently had a stroke. I want to help him and my mom as much as I can, but I don't know where to start.

Begin by finding out how much help Mom wants and reevaluate their needs as time goes by. Ask a doctor, nurse or therapist to clarify any unanswered questions that you and your mom have, or to provide written information that explains what occurs after the stroke and during recovery and rehabilitation.

Determine if your parents' home should be modified to meet your dad's needs.

Recovery depends on many factors: where in the brain the stroke occurred, how much of the brain was affected, your dad's motivation, caregiver support, the quantity and quality of rehabilitation, and how healthy he was before the stroke.

The most rapid recovery usually occurs during the first three to four months after a stroke, but some stroke survivors continue to recover well into the first and second year.

Falls after a stroke are common. If a fall is serious and results in severe pain, bruising or bleeding, go to the emergency room for treatment. If your dad experiences minor falls (with no injury) that occur more than two times within six months, see your physician or the physical therapist for treatment.

How much acute rehabilitation therapy your dad will receive depends partly on his rate of improvement. Stroke survivors on an acute rehabilitation unit are expected to make measurable functional gains every week. Functional improvements include activities of daily living skills (including dressing, bathing, feeding oneself), mobility skills and communication skills.

A change in abilities can trigger a change in services. Medicare coverage for rehabilitation therapies may be available if your dad's physical function has changed. If there appears to be a decline in motor skills, speech or self-care since the last time he was in therapy, he may be eligible for more services.

Post-stroke depression is common following a stroke. Consult a physician to develop a plan of action.

Seek out support. Community resources, such as stroke survivor and caregiver support groups, are available for you and your parents.

Learn the ins and outs of insurance coverage. Be sure to consult with your dad's doctor, case manager or social worker to find how much insurance will pay for rehabilitation services, and for how long. Determine what out-of-pocket expenses he can expect.

Get in touch

NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, email it to or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.

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