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Support For Your Loved One After A Stroke


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for your loved one if:

  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
  • FAST Sings of a Stroke
  • You cannot wake the person.
  • The person falls and hits his or her head.
  • The person has a seizure.
  • The person is lightheaded, short of breath, and has chest pain.
  • The person coughs up blood.

Call your loved one's doctor or neurologist if:

  • The person's arm or leg is painful, red, or larger than normal.
  • The person feels weak, dizzy, or faint.
  • The person falls without hitting his or her head.
  • Blood sugar level or blood pressure is higher or lower than the healthcare provider said it should be.
  • There is heavy bleeding or you cannot stop bleeding from a cut or injury.
  • The person has a fever.
  • The person has a rash.
  • You notice new or worsening symptoms.
  • The person is extremely anxious or sad.
  • The person has trouble sleeping.
  • You notice open sores anywhere on the person's body.
  • The person chokes or coughs when eating or drinking.
  • You have questions or concerns about the person's condition or care.

Know the warning signs of a stroke:

The word F.A.S.T. can help you remember and recognize warning signs of a stroke.

  • F = Face: One side of the face droops.
  • A = Arms: One arm starts to drop when both arms are raised.
  • S = Speech: Speech is slurred or sounds different than usual.
  • T = Time: A person who is having a stroke needs to be seen immediately. A stroke is a medical emergency that needs immediate treatment. Most medicines and treatments work best the sooner they are given.
  • FAST Sings of a Stroke

Understand your loved one's strengths and weaknesses:

A stroke can affect a person in many ways. Understand what he or she can do on his or her own, and what help may be needed. You can show support by doing the following:

  • Encourage self-care tasks. Encourage him or her to do as many self-care tasks as possible. Help build on his or her strengths. Do not point out what he or she used to be able to do. Some effects of a stroke may be permanent.
  • Help your loved one exercise his or her mind. Play games with your loved one, or give him or her crossword puzzles to do. Mind exercises may help improve problem solving skills and memory.
  • Give simple step-by-step directions. He or she may have difficulty paying attention or completing tasks. Use simple, short sentences to help him or her complete tasks or understand what needs to be done.
  • Be patient. Your loved one may think and act slower after a stroke. Let him or her know that you are there to give support.

Know the signs of depression:

Depression can happen because of your loved one's condition after he or she has a stroke. Depression can lower your loved one's quality of life. It can cause him or her to stop doing things that can help him or her be stronger. Depression can cause him or her to become less independent. Know the signs of depression so that your loved one can receive help. Your loved one may show any of the following signs of depression:

  • Extreme sadness
  • Avoiding social interaction with family or friends
  • A lack of interest in things he or she once enjoyed
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Low energy levels
  • A change in eating habits or sudden weight gain or loss

Understand your loved one's treatment plan:

He or she may need a number of therapies or medicines after a stroke. It is important for you to know the following:

  • The goals of therapy
  • Reasons for new medicines, and what side effects to report
  • The lifestyle changes he or she may need to make such as changes in diet, getting more exercise, or quitting smoking
  • What assistive devices he or she may need and how they are used
  • What equipment you may need in your home to care for him or her, such as hand rails or a raised toilet seat

Understand your loved one's insurance plan:

Find out what services are covered by his or her insurance plan. Understand the out-of-pocket costs. Talk to a social worker or case manager about services that are not covered.

Be a part of your loved one's therapies:

  • Go with your loved one to therapy. Learn exercises and ways to help him or her cope with the physical effects of the stroke.
  • Help practice the skills learned in therapy. More practice may improve his or her recovery from a stroke.
  • Help with range of motion (ROM) exercises. ROM exercises are gentle, slow movements of joints. Ask the physical therapist how to do ROM exercises. ROM exercises can help increase flexibility, and decrease pain.

Help decrease your loved one's risk for another stroke:

  • Prepare healthy foods to eat. Ask the healthcare provider if a special diet is needed. Healthy foods can decrease the risk for heart disease. It may also decrease the risk for other conditions that could cause another stroke.
  • Encourage him or her to quit smoking. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage or heart damage. It can also increase the risk for another stroke. Ask the healthcare provider for information if he or she currently smokes and needs help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to the healthcare provider before he or she uses these products.
  • Exercise with your loved one. Exercise may lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease. Find an exercise that you both enjoy and can do together. Talk to his or her healthcare provider about the best exercise program.
  • Make sure your loved one takes medicines as directed. Blood thinners and medicines to manage blood pressure or heart conditions can decrease the risk for another stroke. You may need to set an alarm. You may need to use other reminders to help him or her remember to take medicines on time.

Decrease the risk for falls in his or her home:

Your loved one may be at risk for falls. You can do the following to keep the home safe and decrease his or her risk for falls:

  • Tape electrical cords down or remove them from hallways and walkways.
  • Keep paths clear throughout your home.
  • Make sure the home has good lighting.
  • Put nonslip materials on surfaces that might be slippery. An example is your bathtub or shower floor.
  • Encourage him or her to use assistive devices, and wear glasses or hearing aids. Also remind him or her to ask for help getting in and out of the shower.

Ask for help:

If you have trouble caring for your loved one, ask his or her healthcare provider where to get help. You may be able to get home health aids or nurses to come to the home. You may also be able to get help with transportation to appointments. Learn about resources in the community that may be helpful to you and your loved one.

Join a support group:

It may be helpful to discuss your fears or concerns with others that care for stroke survivors. Other caregivers may understand how you feel. You may get ideas about how to support your loved one or cope with stress. Your loved one's provider can help you find a support group.

Take care of yourself:

Caring for a stroke survivor can be mentally, physically, and emotionally difficult. Ask family or friends to stay with your loved one so you can have a break. Take time for yourself to relax and enjoy activities. Eat healthy foods, exercise, and get plenty of rest.

For support and more information:

  • National Stroke Association
    9707 E. Easter Lane
    Centennial , CO 80112
    Phone: 1- 800 - 787-6537
    Web Address:
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
    P.O. Box 5801
    Bethesda , MD 20824
    Phone: 1- 301 - 496-5751
    Phone: 1- 800 - 352-9424
    Web Address:
  • American Stroke Association
    7272 Greenville Ave
    Dallas , TX 75231
    Phone: 1- 888 - 478-7653
    Web Address:

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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