Be Ready for a Cautious Recovery
A left-hemisphere stroke often results in right-sided paralysis and a curiously extreme cautiousness on the part of the sufferer. It takes a lot of teaching and frequent encouragement to lead such a person through the steps of recovery. Caregivers can easily become frustrated by the slowness and confusion they encounter, but these behaviors are natural and will usually recede during the recovery process.
Learn to Roll With Unexpected Behaviors
Due to the changes in the brain, as well as the stroke victim's reaction to those changes, caregivers often see their loved ones exhibit a high level of frustration and anger. Recovering from a stroke, and sometimes a left-hemisphere stroke in particular, can be absolutely life-altering and difficult. Also normal are unexpected or often-inappropriate responses on the part of stroke survivors, such as laughing at an inopportune time or throwing childish temper tantrums. This behavior is part of the brain injury, so try to respond to it with that in mind. Most caregivers will note real improvement as the weeks and months go by.
Prepare for a Lack of Speech
Aphasia is a common result of an injury to the left hemisphere of the brain. Victims of this particular type of stroke may have expressive aphasia, which means they can understand words but cannot use those words to express themselves. Another possible result of this type of stroke is receptive aphasia, which means the person can usually speak (albeit slowly), but is unable to understand incoming speech communication. General, or global, aphasia is also a common stroke outcome, involving both expressive and receptive aphasia. The key to recovery is patience on the part of both the patient and the caregiver. Speech therapists can guide both parties through the usually months-long process of speech recovery.
Prepare for Even More Communication Hurdles
Depending on the extent of the stroke, some people also have difficulty understanding the written word. A magazine article might look like a scramble of words that make no sense to the person. Those with trouble speaking may also not be able to express themselves in writing, so having the person merely write down needs instead of speaking them is not always possible. Again, the speech therapist will be invaluable in exploring what a specific stroke victim's limitations are and designing a path back to full communication. In the meantime, the therapist may recommend the use of hand signals or a communication board, which allows the stroke victim to point at pictures of her needs, such as the bathroom or food.
Expect the Unexpected
Through your own observation, and with the help of your loved one's occupational, speech and physical therapists, you will quickly learn which of his abilities remain intact. For instance, some people with expressive aphasia cannot speak; but given some music in the background, they find they can sing. Stroke recovery is a mysterious process, and one with which you will only become familiar as it unfolds. Stay positive, and look to your community hospital or local chapter of the American Stroke Association for referrals to your local stroke-caregiver support groups.