All the tips on this page were submitted by stroke survivors or family caregivers and have been published in various issues of Stroke Connection Magazine.
From Paul Berger, Survivor
Paul had a stroke as a young man. He was left with significant disabilities and has written about his recovery. Here are a few tips from his book:
- To clean my eyeglasses, I hold one end of the glasses in my mouth, then use a cloth in my unaffected hand to wipe the lens.
- Because I drag my affected foot, I scruff the toe on that shoe. To protect it, I get toes and heel taps. I have a nice shoe repairman who fixes the taps and then, after a lot of wear, replaces the sole.
- I found a local tailor who sews clothes for people with disabilities. She made me custom gloves of warm, insulated material with Velcro to close them tightly.
I have made progress in reading over the years. First words, then sentences, then pages. At first, I read children’s books. Now I can read a newspaper or magazine or the Internet. Books are hard, but I try. I read about my interests in politics, space, transportation and building.
- Try to read about your interests to give yourself motivation.
- What are your interests – gardening, history, sports, science?
Keep a daily routine and set goals. Before I returned to work, I woke up early every morning with my wife. I ate breakfast, showered, dressed. I had a list of things to do. Starting the day early helps me since it takes me longer to do the things I want to do. I also try to plan to do something out of the house each day.
My first post-stroke job was volunteer work for a non-profit organization, two or three days a week. Volunteer work helps you meet people, prove to yourself that you can work, practice your skills, learn new ones, collect experience and references to show a future employee.
- List what you like to do.
- List the skills you have.
- Explore new and different types of work you can do part-time, full-time or as a volunteer.
When I feel nervous, I say out loud, “I can do it!” Practice saying this out loud – I mean loud – raise your voice!
From Joseph A. Cohen, Caregiver
Great Neck, New York
- A calm atmosphere for a stroke survivor is a non-negotiable need. Strokes are enough for a person to bear without unnecessary irritations.
- Try to live a structured life.
- Establish routines.
This does much to even out the difference between life before and after a stroke.
- Have meals prepared by a companion if possible.
- Have friends over for lunch or dinner, to create a normal social life.
Entertainment is crucial to any lifestyle.
- Plan your schedule so you can see an opera, ballet, concert or movie about once every two weeks.
We were told to order a bench for the bathtub. Instead, we should have been advised to get one for the stall shower. Climbing into an ordinary tub is dangerous and unnecessary compared to walking into a shower stall.
A portable commode is a vital necessity. In the middle of the night, a walk to the toilet is foolish.
In the bathroom, danger lurks in every corner. The floor is usually tile, and a fall can cause serious injuries.
- Remove scatter rugs, which slip.
- Install bars and handles where needed.
- Pad any sharp edges.
- Remove every obstacle in a survivor’s path.
For emergencies, install a buzzer system in every room. Where there is no buzzer, use a walkie-talkie. If the caregiver goes into a store while the survivor remains in the car, you can both use a walkie-talkie to keep in contact. Install speed dialing on your phone.
A hobby is enriching for the survivor. It can be just for fun. My wife Sonia takes art lessons; her teacher has taught her watercolors, pencil and pastels with the left hand. We have an entire wall devoted to Sonia’s works framed with pride and dignity.
Survivors and caregivers, have one-on-one dates with friends that are close to you. Make it a point to nurture relationships with good friends.
From Jeanene Cooley, Survivor
When released from rehab, I struggled to walk with a cane, a brace and painfully curled toes. Five years later, I still could walk only as far as I could endure the pain.
Then, I discovered that little foam cushions between my toes cause the muscles to relax, and the toes to extend. Now I can walk as far as my energy will allow! My miracle is “toe Separators.” Shaped somewhat like an artist’s palette, they come four to a foot, in graduated sizes.
From Marilyn Elliot, Caregiver
My stroke survivor husband often drops food from the dining table onto the carpet. I purchased a regular desk floor pad, the type they use in offices. It is easy to clean and serves the purpose, especially because our dining chairs have wheels so I can easily push my husband close to the table.From Art Gottlieb, Survivor
Long Beach, California
- Don’t search for missing items for more than five minutes. They always show up eventually.
- With removable ink, write your days’ planned activities on a mirror that you frequently use. Erase it when the task is completed.
- Keep all frequently called phone numbers on one sheet of paper near each phone.
- Put away each item of clothing after undressing in order to avoid clutter.
From David Hofheimer, Survivor
Long Beach, New York
- You can buy a set of four bed risers that will raise your bed to hospital bed height. This makes it easier for you to get in and out of bed.
- A five-inch cushion helps you get out of chairs and wheelchairs more easily.
- Shoe lifts inside your shoe or slipper help with balance and lessen the strain on your sciatic nerve.
- Aloe Vera or vitamin E skin lotions prevent rashes caused by the rubbing together of paralyzed body parts.
- A strong rope attached to your bed frame allows you to move around more easily in bed and helps you get out of bed.
- An electric bed makes it easier to change positions.
- I use a full-size scarecrow, stuffed animal heads, toy lizards, snakes and silk butterflies to complete my canes, walkers, and electric scooter. Everyone waves and laughs. The most important thing is I laugh with them.
- Get a hobby that you can handle.
- I have collected more than 1,000 rubber stamps. I keep busy, figuring humorous ways to combine them. I use them on checks, envelopes and bills.
- I keep my mind occupied by writing humorous sayings, ditties and one-liners. I’ve written more than 64,000 of them.
- Finally, the joy of my life is my electric scooter. I take it to the boardwalk and food shopping. It gives me a great feeling of independence.
From Steve Moore, Survivor
I carry at least one plastic grocery sack when going out. It’s easy to carry small things since I am not able to use my right hand and use a cane with my left hand.
From Philip Naylor, Survivor
La Verkin, Utah
I have a helpful hint that aids me greatly with zippers. I buy different sizes of key rings at our local hardware store and put them on the zipper tabs of the clothing I wear. It makes the zipper easier to grasp and hold while pulling it.
For a woman, they could even be installed on her purse zipper. I sew them on my pant zippers, jacket zippers and the list goes on!
The rings are generally available near the key machine at hardware stores.
Also, depending on the size, they are practically invisible!
Do you have tips you’d like to share with other stroke families? How have you handled life’s persistent challenges? Send your solutions to:
Stroke Connection Magazine
7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas, TX 75231
Or e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type “solutions” in the subject line.