People recovering from a stroke may need help eating, getting around, taking medications, and communicating. However, their exact needs vary case by case.

People can have different symptoms, depending on how the stroke affects them. There is also no predictable timeline for recovery that applies to everyone.

However, the right support can affect a person’s recovery and may even help prevent future strokes.

Read on to learn how to care for a stroke survivor at home, including what this may involve, tips for caregivers, and ways to get help.

A caregiver walking with a stroke survivor in a courtyard garden.Share on Pinterest
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The needs of every stroke survivor are different. Depending on their symptoms, a person may need help with:

  • taking medications on time
  • managing medical appointments
  • getting around
  • preparing or eating food
  • communicating with others
  • performing exercises for speech or physical therapy
  • accessing emotional support

A doctor may also recommend implementing changes at home to prevent the person from having another stroke. Having one stroke can come with an increased risk of having another. Stroke prevention can involve dietary or lifestyle changes, such as reducing or quitting smoking if the person smokes.

Home adaptations may also be necessary to help the person recovering from a stroke maintain as much independence as possible. These could include adaptations such as moving their bedroom to the ground floor so they do not need to climb stairs.

A range of medical professionals can help with stroke recovery. The person’s medical team could include an occupational therapist and a:

  • primary care doctor
  • neurologist
  • cardiologist
  • speech therapist
  • physical or an exercise therapist

Some people develop mobility impairments, or challenges moving around, following a stroke. An occupational therapist or a neurologist can offer guidance about a person’s specific needs, but it is generally a good idea to make changes in the home to reduce the risk of accidents.

Some changes could include:

  • putting nonslip mats in showers or baths
  • installing grab bars in bathrooms
  • removing rugs that move around or are trip hazards
  • ensuring cables and wires are out of the way
  • stabilizing tall furniture by securing it to the wall
  • moving their bed to somewhere that makes moving around easier, such as the ground floor or near a bathroom

A person may also benefit from mobility devices, such as walkers or canes, to help them balance more easily. For transport, a person may need someone to drive them to appointments.

A stroke can affect brain areas that affect communication. This may affect a person’s ability to speak and possibly their ability to understand speech.

If a person experiences these challenges, family members may need to adapt communication to make it easier. The following may help:

  • Use short, simple sentences.
  • Ask “yes or no” questions rather than open-ended ones.
  • Use hand gestures and speech.
  • Keep distractions, such as background noise, to a minimum.
  • Use a communication board or app that allows people to point to words or images.
  • Avoid changing the topic too quickly.

After asking a question, give the person as much time as they need to speak. Do not finish their sentence for them unless it is essential, as this can prevent the person from practicing their speech.

If the person becomes frustrated or what they say is not understandable to you, try to be patient and encouraging. Do not pretend to understand. Instead, try to prompt them so they can remember the word.

Learn more about the strategies people can use for aphasia.

Some people recovering from stroke may need help preparing, chewing, or swallowing food.

Depending on the challenges they experience, a person may need only small or significant changes to their diet to make food easy to swallow. These can range from cutting their typical foods into smaller pieces to trying an all-liquid diet.

The adaptations vary from person to person, so it is important to consult a medical professional about the individual’s needs before making dietary changes.

Some general tips that may help include:

  • sitting the person upright when they eat or drink
  • reducing distractions so the person can focus on eating
  • using straws to make it easier to drink
  • providing drinks in cups with lids to prevent spills
  • trying soft foods that a person can easily blend to the right consistency for the person’s needs, such as bananas, scrambled eggs, root vegetables, and yogurt
  • making sure the person gets enough calories, nutrients, and water
  • using protein powders or shakes to boost their intake

Learn more about diet for stroke survivors.

Surviving a stroke can be scary, and adjusting to life after a stroke can present further challenges and uncertainty. Caregivers can play a big role in providing support and companionship so the person does not feel alone.

When caring for a stroke survivor:

  • Be patient: Allow the person to do or say things in their own time and in their own way. Give them time and space to practice speech, movement, or other skills.
  • Be respectful: Treat the person as a partner rather than a victim. They may have impairments, but allow them to exercise their autonomy by making their own decisions whenever possible.
  • Be empathetic: Adjusting to a major life change can bring up many emotions, such as grief, anger, and anxiety. Allow the person to express their feelings and, if possible, provide emotional support.
  • Be empowering: Try not to focus on getting the person back to where they were before the stroke. Instead, support them in finding a way forward. This may mean adopting new ways of long-term movement or communication.

Stroke survivors may also benefit from activities that can boost mental health, such as:

  • joining support groups
  • doing hobbies and activities the person enjoys
  • trying counseling or therapy

If a person develops potential signs of depression, it is important to let a doctor know. Depression can affect recovery, and it is common in stroke survivors. Look for potential symptoms, such as:

  • persistent sadness
  • sensations of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  • loss of interest in things a person used to enjoy
  • appetite changes
  • irritability or restlessness

Caregiving can be demanding. Caregivers tend to have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and physical conditions than people who are not caregivers.

However, there are things that can help, such as:

  • getting support from family, friends, or communities
  • speaking to a care coordinator, if there is one in the area, about the available support
  • looking into any benefits the caregiver or family may be eligible for

It is important that caregivers also look after themselves mentally and physically. It may help to try the following:

  • Set aside time for self-care.
  • Delegate jobs to other family members.
  • Take regular breaks.
  • Connect with other caregivers online or in person.
  • Practice relaxation techniques.
  • Speak with a therapist to help process complicated or challenging emotions.

The National Family Caregiver Support Program offers caregivers a wide range of support services. The Family Caregiver Alliance is also a helpful resource.

Learn about caregiver burnout and how to prevent it.

There is no standard recovery timeline for a stroke. Some people recover fairly quickly. Others recover over time but still need ongoing help. Some may need daily comprehensive care.

It is important to consult a neurologist for specific guidance on the type and amount of care a person will need and how likely it is they will recover.

Caring for a stroke survivor at home can look different, depending on how the stroke affects the person. Tailoring care to their needs, including the ways symptoms shift over time, can ensure the person has the right support throughout their recovery.

People can get further advice on how to care for stroke survivors from the person’s medical team. Care coordinators can also help navigate the healthcare system and link people to support services.