Caring for stroke patients is a team effort

Stroke patients

There is no ‘I’ in team –or in stroke, for that matter-, and caring for stroke patients usually requires not just a team, but several teams which are assembled by caregivers, family members, and/or by the patient themselves. These teams may comprise relatives, friends, employers, co-workers, and professional healthcare providers. These teams have many responsibilities, but their main duty is enable the main caregiver to concentrate on the needs and recovery of the stroke patient, as well as his/her own needs and self-care.

The three-team operation includes:

A personal care team.

  • Caregiver
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Employer
  • Co-workers
  • Community.

A medical care team.

  • Primary care provider
  • Home healthcare
  • Cardiologist
  • Neurologist
  • Nurse (hospital and home healthcare)
  • Nutritionist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist/social worker/counselor

A rehab care team. 

  • Case manager
  • Occupational therapist
  • Physiatrist
  • Physical therapist
  • Social worker
  • Speech therapist
  • Vocational therapist

An employer may not have the time to become personally involved, but the company you work for may have a caregiving and family emergency plan. Let your HR department know about your current situation and see if you qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act.


Personal care team



Friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, anyone who is willing and able to help.

·         Child care (carpooling, homework, play dates).

·         House cleaning.

·         Cooking.

·         Grocery shopping.

·         Laundry.

·         Lawn care.

·         Pet care.


Medical care team



Primary care provider

Supervises care coordination, referrals, prescriptions, testing.

Home healthcare (certified nursing assistants)

Provide additional support


Diagnosis, post-stroke symptom management, referrals for post-hospital care related to heart disorders.


Diagnosis, post-stroke symptom management, referrals for post-hospital care related to neurological involvement.

Nurse (hospital and home care)

Provide assistance and management with immediate needs and stroke-related health problems.


Guidance to achieve healthy eating and devise special diets.


Antidepressant medication prescriptions.

Psychologist/social worker/counselor

Mental health therapy


Rehab care team



Case manager

Discharge planning, service coordination, liaison between patient and local resources.

Occupational therapist

Helps regain skills for daily activities and independence.


Rehab therapy and pain management.

Physical therapist

Helps increase mobility, decrease pain, prevent disability and restore independent functioning.

Social worker

Discharge planning and continuing care.

Speech therapist

Works with patients with aphasia and apraxia to improve language skills

Vocational therapist

Helps patients return to work and social activities.


The glue that holds the whole operation together is the main caregiver. In addition to all the medical and psychological aspects of caring for stroke patients, there are several practical aspects that pertain to the caregiver, such as:

  • Feeding. While there are non-slip mats and plates with suction pads, as well as thick-handled utensils that make it easier for the patient to feed themselves with only one hand, the caregiver may still have to cut meat into bite-sized pieces. This should be done before serving it to the stroke survivor and not at the table, which can have a disastrous effect on the patient’s self-esteem.
  • Dressing. The caregiver may arrange clothes on the bed and then allow the patient to take as long as they need to get dress themselves. Tracksuits and other loose clothes with wide neck openings and no buttons (instead zips, or better yet, Velcro) are ideal at first, as well as slip-on shoes that can be put on with the help of an extendable shoehorn. The weak limb should go in first when putting clothes, and out last when taking them off.
  • Washing and bathing. The caregiver may instruct the patient to sit a table with a basin of water on a non-slip mat instead of attempting to wash standing at a sink. An electric razor is easier to handle with just one hand. Use shower alternatives like free-standing showers, or sitting on a special chair in the shower.
  • Transfers. Getting on and off bed, or in and out of chairs may be difficult even if the patient can still walk. A physiotherapist can recommend appropriate furniture and proper transfer techniques.
  • Standing and walking. Railings, ramps, and wheelchairs can help the patient move around inside the house and outside too. The caregiver has to see to it that the house is appropriately modified to provide a safe environment.
  • Using the toilet. A downstairs toilet may have to be adapted so that its frame allows wheelchair access, and may have to be generally modified as well to install grab bars and a raised seat. If the toilet is entirely out of the question, a commode would be the next best thing.
  • Bladder function. A stroke may have an adverse effect on bladder control. The caregiver may have to enforce scheduled trips to the bathroom and promote the use of absorbent pads inside the underwear during the day and night. Seldom does a stroke survivor need a permanent catheter, though.
  • Bowel function. Constipation is another common stroke ramification that can lead to incontinence and diarrhea. The caregiver should feed the patient fiber-rich food and have them drink abundant liquids.

Although the immediate care of a stroke patient may seem to fall entirely on the primary caregiver, let us not forget that there should be many more people working together if a successful recovery is to be achieved.

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