How to Support Your Loved One in the Hospital


Family members of stroke victim in hospital

Stroke Support Association is dedicated to empowering stroke survivors and their families. Providing ideas of how to help a loved one who has just suffered a stroke while he or she is still being treated in the hospital is just one of the ways we do this.

You’ll find many resources, including on our website, on how to help identify the symptoms of a stroke. This is critically important because a stroke is a serious medical emergency that requires urgent treatment. The quicker your stroke is diagnosed and treated, the better your recovery will be.1 A CDC study showed that “patients who arrive at the emergency room within 3 hours of their first symptoms often have less disability 3 months after a stroke than those who received delayed care.”2

At the hospital, the skilled medical professionals will care for the patient, assess his or her condition, and then administer the best treatment.

Once the stroke survivor is stabilized, many family members wonder what they can do to help their loved one. Here are some tips:

  1. Designate one point-person
    The point-person can call the hospital for updates about your loved one and can relay the information to the rest of the family. Having a single point of contact will enable the healthcare professionals to relay updates more efficiently, and then focus on providing the best care possible.
  2. Encourage your loved one to move as much as possible
    This may include rolling onto his or her side, moving legs and arms, and taking deep breaths. This will help prevent skin breakdown and muscle atrophy.
  3. Deliver the stroke patient’s glasses, dentures, or hearing aids, as needed
    Especially in a rushed, emergency situation that a stroke can cause, personal items may be left behind or forgotten. Help your loved one feel comfortable by remembering to bring his or her important personal belongings.
  4. Remind your loved one about safety
    In-hospital accidents can be prevented if the stroke patient always calls for assistance to sit up or get out of bed, and never walks alone until given a green light by the staff.
  5. Let the staff know what your loved one enjoyed doing prior to hospitalization
    This enables the healthcare staff to set up the environment to be as comfortable or familiar to him or her possible. Many stroke patients have difficulty communicating or may not even be oriented to their situation. For example, if the patient enjoyed music, the staff may be able to play the music station on the in-room TV during the day. Or, if the patient enjoys watching sports, the staff can leave the TV on ESPN.
  6. Discuss discharge plans with family members
    Who can help with what – physically, emotionally, running errands, meal prep? Will outside help be needed? Start having conversations with family and friends even before hospital discharge plans are known. Then, when your loved one is discharged (which can be sooner than most of us think) the beginnings of a plan are already in place.
  7. Prepare the home with modifications
    To reduce fall risk, minimize clutter and remove rugs and obstacles.
  8. Be prepared to receive training prior to discharge from the hospital
    While not with all cases, you may need to be trained on what to do, especially if your loved one has a physical disability that leads to a high fall risk.
  9. Talk to your physician regarding psychological issues
    Discuss how to cope and what resources are available to help, not only for stroke survivor, but also for the care partner. This may include depression and anxiety.
  10. Look for a support group
    Finding a stroke support group can make a huge positive impact to “life after stroke” for both stroke survivors and the caregivers. Fellow stroke survivors and their families, along with trained facilitators can be great resources, especially during transitions of care. In the words of one stroke survivor, “The doctors kept me alive. The stroke support group keeps me living.”


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