For Caregivers: Self-Care After Stroke

After a stroke, people can regain a sense of power by helping to take care of themselves. Many can learn ways to manage a lack of bowel and bladder control. And using impaired arms and legs to bathe and dress helps regain muscle strength. In fact, daily use of affected hands often helps bring back function. As the function improves, the person should get as much encouragement as possible to use the affected side as part of an effective recovery.

Woman sitting on edge of hospital bed putting on shoe with long-handled grasper. Healthcare provider is sitting next to woman.

Bladder and bowel problems

A stroke may affect your loved one’s bladder and bowel control. The problem may seem worse if he or she can’t walk to the bathroom alone or ask for help. Nurses can help you both find a way to manage the problem. They may suggest:

  • Taking the person to the toilet at set times. You might try every 2 hours to 3 hours.

  • Providing a bedside commode for use at night.

  • Using absorbent briefs.

  • Refraining from drinking fluids or alcohol late in the evening.

Bathing and dressing

With the help of occupational therapists, people who have had a stroke can learn new ways to bathe and dress. Your loved one may be taught to:

  • Test water temperature with a hand or foot that was not affected by the stroke.

  • Use grab bars, a shower seat, a hand-held shower, and a long-handled brush.

  • Dress while sitting, starting with the affected side or limb.

  • Wear shirts with snaps or Velcro closures. Use zippers with loops attached to them. Sweat pants or skirts with elastic waistbands may also be suggested.


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