Helping Seniors Recover from Stroke

Advice for families and caregivers

Strokes are one of the major causes of death and disability in seniors. Recovery varies, depending on the extent of brain injury and length of time before treatment. Patients with severe brain damage will require support from caregivers.

Q&A for Seniors and Stroke
What are the signs that my parent is having a stroke?

If your parent has any of these signs, call 911 immediately. Every second matters in stroke treatment.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness -- especially on one side of the body -- in the face, arm or leg
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing with one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking
  • Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
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Now that my parent has had a stroke, is there anything I can do to help?

Be there. Even though your parent may not be able to speak or communicate, your presence will be felt.

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When I visit my parent who has had a stroke, should I only use simple words?

Speak directly to the person, and with the same level of intelligence and respect used previously, and not more loudly than usual. Not all stroke victims become disoriented or lose the ability to understand speech -- disabilities depend on the area of the brain that was injured and the extent of damage.

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Are there any adjustments I should make when speaking to my parent who has had a stroke?

Depending on the amount of brain damage your parent has, it may be helpful to talk about only one topic at a time, which will allow your parent time to process his or her thoughts. It may help your parent's concentration if you turn off radios and TVs when speaking, so that there is only one thing to focus on at a time.

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Should the whole family visit my parent who has had a stroke, or would that be too much?

Stroke victims usually do best when they deal with one person at a time.

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How can I help my parent who is depressed and frustrated since having had a stroke?

Here are some thoughts:

  • Frustration is to be expected. Empathize with the frustration, but calmly refocus on small goals ahead.
  • Depression is also common in stroke patients. It's important to discuss the depression with your parent's doctor and the rehabilitation staff and to get it treated so that it won't impede the rehabilitation.
  • Some stroke patients have found that the regular practice of relaxation techniques has helped them manage their frustration and anxiety while going through rehabilitation.
  • Others, when they are recovered enough to participate, find attending support groups helpful. For more information on support groups for stroke patients, go to: or
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My parent who had a stroke now has difficulty getting dressed. How can I help?

Here are some tips:

  • Get clothes that fasten in front, and replace zippers and buttons with Velcro fasteners.
  • Don't get clothes that go over the head or that have tight spots.
  • Substitute Velcro closures for laces on shoes.
  • Avoid shoes that stick to the floor, as they could cause a fall.
  • Substitute capes for coats.
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How long will it take till my parent who had a stroke is back to normal?

Stroke rehabilitation is a long, slow process and while some improvement is expected, it is usually unclear if the person will be back to "normal." What you can do is cheer your parent on, celebrate the small gains, and offer hope.

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I have heard that exercise can help stroke patients. Is this true?
  • It has been found that for people who have mini-strokes, increasing exercise very slowly over time will enhance blood flow to the brain and possibly lower the risk of a major stroke.
  • Exercises that are aerobic and strength enhancing improve the ability to perform daily tasks for stroke victims for up to six years afterwards.
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Since my parent already had a stroke, is it still important for him to stop smoking?

Yes, it is important for him to stop smoking because he could still have another stroke, plus smoking increases the risk of a heart attack and other problems, any of which your parent could develop.

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How can I find other family members of stroke patients to talk to?

There are support groups for stroke survivors and their families, and many ways to connect with them. For more information, go to: or

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I want to hire a caregiver for my parent who had a stroke. How can I find one? is a website that lists people throughout the United States who provide care to seniors, includes photos and descriptions of their experience, and does free background checks for members. You can search by zip code. For specific listings, go to:

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Other resources for Seniors and Stroke

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