Socializing with Family and FriendsLearning to Enjoy Socialization with Family and Friends after a Stroke
A stroke is the result of part of the brain being deprived of blood and oxygen. This happens due to either a rupture of a blood vessel or blockage of a blood vessel by a clot. When part of the brain lacks blood and oxygen, it will become damaged or die. Stroke can be large or small and can happen anywhere in the brain. The location and size of a stroke will determine how the stroke will affect a person.
Stroke can leave a person with a variety of problems, including:
-Paralysis of an arm or leg
-Paralysis of one side of the body or face
-Loss of or change in sensation or the ability to feel
-Difficulty with balance
-Difficulty with/loss of bowel and/or bladder control
-Decreased level of consciousness or alertness
-Change in eyesight/blindness
-Difficulty with speech or inability to speak
-Difficulty with thinking and/or memory problems
Each of these problems, either alone or together, can make it difficult for you and
your loved one with stroke to socialize with and enjoy your family and friends as
you did before the stroke.
Barriers to Socialization after a Stroke
The problems caused as the result of a stroke can present many barriers to being able to socialize with your family and friends in the ways that you are used to doing. In this section, some of these barriers will be discussed.
- Perhaps your loved one’s mobility has been affected by the paralysis of an arm or leg or even an entire side of the body and face. This certainly can affect the ability to walk, drive, dress, eat without assistance, and therefore affect the person’s independence.
- To improve mobility and level of independence, it is important that you both work with your doctor and rehabilitation therapy team, especially the physical and occupational therapists, to regain those functions that were affected when your loved one had the stroke.
- Sometimes after a stroke, mobility and balance are more safely accomplished with the use of a wheelchair or walker. Needing to use a walker or wheelchair is very difficult for some people to accept. Remember the importance of safety in avoiding further disability as a result of injury. The choices that you make now for safety can help in the long run.
- Mobility impairment can also lead to becoming fatigued or tired more easily. Regaining strength and endurance can take time. Make sure your loved one gets the proper amount of rest and sleep each day to help have the strength needed for recovery.
Change in Bodily Functions
- Sometimes a stroke makes it difficult to manage bathroom needs. This is a cause for concern, frustration and embarrassment for many people who have had a stroke.
- Work with your doctor and your rehabilitation team toward gaining control again of the person’s bathroom needs. Sometimes medication can be helpful with managing some types of incontinence. Talk with your doctor about this possibility.
- Use supplies to manage adult incontinence while working toward regaining control of bowel and bladder function. Supplies such as Poise, Depends and Tranquility can offer protection and the ability to get out of the house.
- For some people who have had a stroke, language skills may be changed or lost. This means that the ability to understand spoken or written words or the ability to speak words can be impaired. This presents one of the most difficult barriers for you and your loved one to overcome.
- It is important that you work with your doctor and the rehabilitation team, especially the speech therapist to improve your loved one’s communication abilities.
- Encourage your loved one to try to verbally communicate, even though it may be hard. See Tip on
Emotional Lability and Depression
- After a stroke, emotions or feelings may be more extreme or unpredictable. Many people also experience sadness or depression. These changes in emotional expression may be due to damage in your loved one's brain caused by the stroke. They may also be a reaction to the realization of what has happened and changes in the level of independence for your loved one.
- It is normal for an individual and their family to experience grief after having a stroke. Many times there are changes in how day-to-day life is, and this requires a period of adjustment and grieving. It is important to acknowledge your feelings and to share your feelings with those around you. It is common to get stuck in your grief in an effort to protect those you love. Know that your loved ones are grieving, too. Sharing your feelings, even in small ways, can help you to work through your grieving process.
- Some people who have survived stroke are affected by emotional lability. Emotional lability is the sudden shift of mood, or going from laughing to crying to being angry very suddenly. This is often very different from how the loved one used to experience feelings. Emotional lability often is a very difficult experience for you and your loved one.
- The best way to cope with changes in how emotions are expressed is to remain as calm as possible. Remember, these changes are due to the damage caused in the brain by the stroke. It is important to know this and to not be critical of your loved one for sudden mood changes or emotional outbursts.
- For those dealing with depression, there are several things to consider. Counseling is always an option. Your rehabilitation team can direct you to professionals who are skilled in working with individuals who are dealing with the effects of stroke and the difficulties of returning to daily life. See Tip on Depression.
- Sometimes an antidepressant prescribed by your doctor may help your loved one and you to feel more like yourselves while your loved one continues to recover from stroke.
Re-entering Socialization: What Can Caregivers Do to Help?
-Start slowly. When planning the first several outings with your loved one with a stroke, plan for just an hour or two, not the entire day.
-Together choose places to visit that are accessible to your loved one based on any
limitations with mobility that she or he may have. Many malls/stores, restaurants,
churches, and museums are easily accessible for those who rely on walkers and wheelchairs
for mobility. They also offer a place to sit down should you need to rest.
-Invite those who know you best to accompany you. These are the people who are able to best assist you and your loved one, as they are able to anticipate your needs.
-You may also want to consider participating in a support group. This is a way for you to meet others who have had experiences similar to yours and/or get your questions answered. Through participation in a discussion group or by asking questions, you will learn new and different ways to cope with the challenges in dealing with stroke.
Channing, L. (1997). About living after a stroke (brain attack). South Deerfield, MA: Channing L. Bete Co., Inc.
Krames Communications. (1997). After a brain attack: Helping someone you love recover from a stroke. San Bruno, CA: Author.
National Stroke Association. (2009). Recovery after stroke: Social support. Retrieved from http://www.stroke.org/site/DocServer/NSAFactSheet_SocialSupport.pdf?docID=1003
National Stroke Association. (2011). Social activities and opportunities. Retrieved from http://nsa.networkats.com/members_online/members/resource_directory.asp?rc=SOCA
Developed in 2003 by Lisa M. Keaton, MSW, LSW at the University of Toledo for Caring~Web©.
Revised 2010, 2012