A stroke throws your whole world upside down (family included). One day you’re fine, and the next you’re disabled. The stroke recovery process is challenging and long. Fortunately, there are lots of practical and useful gifts for a stroke patient after this life-changing event.
I learned so much about strokes when my mother had one. Some strokes are gentle, and can be more of an annoyance than anything. Other strokes seem greatly challenging, yet persons make remarkable comebacks.
Then there are people who take a serious hit to their executive/cognitive functions (a massive stroke) – like my mother. A severe stroke can leave someone with permanent disabilities.
I know you are feeling overwhelmed and helpless, and not having a clue how to help your loved one. Below are some gift ideas to get you started to support a stroke patient and get them onto the road to recovery.
Matching the gift to the challenge
Everyone’s journey will be unique, every brain affected by a stroke differently. Your job, as a friend or family member is to keep trying, and find the support they most respond to.
If you’re family, you’ve already learned of the severity and details of your friend’s stroke. As a friend, you may not have all the information, you just want to give a supportive gift.
You can go down the traditional route and send flowers and balloons for the first stage of recovery. However, recovering from a stroke is not a “get well soon” event. Giving the perfect gift to a stroke patient means understanding their medical and physical challenges.
If it was a mild stroke, your friend will recover quickly. A moderate stroke may or may not require therapy or ongoing hospital time, just some adjustments in their home while they are healing. Even then, it could take months of therapy, but they miraculously do get back to almost normal.
A massive stroke survivor is going to need lots of support, maybe even for the rest of their life. It can leave them without the ability to speak or write, and issues with comprehension. Paralysis can affect the face, arms, and legs causing mobility challenges.
Common stroke deficits
Help your loved one get daily opportunities to work on their deficits. “Deficits” is referring to physical challenges that they have due to the stroke, such as walking, slurred speech, arm and leg movement limitations, and memory issues. It’s critical to work on deficits right away, while the brain is in its most moldable state. It will make a difference in a speedier recovery!
Here is just a handful of “deficits” that a person that has suffered from a stroke may experience:
- may be completely bed/chair bound
- loss of arm function (69% of stroke patients)
- have problems swallowing, coughing and protecting their own airways
- eating issues (may be dealing with a feeding tube)
- speech problems (Asphasia)
- memory and comprehension problems caused by brain damage
- irritability/anger issues/anxiety/agitation/crying (due to how brain is affected)
- balance issues
- eyesight issues (may need prisms in eyewear)
- depression and frustration with their state
One side of the body might be paralyzed. The patient’s face may droop, or the stroke patient can’t clutch onto a fork to feed themselves. Speech is slurred or swallowing can be difficult. It is a depressing state of affairs and it can be overwhelming for the stroke victim to try to keep moral up.
How you can help with recovery
The best thing you can do for a stroke survivor is help them get early access to therapy. During the first 3 months after a stroke, the brain is in a “heightened state of plasticity.” Therapy pursued during this time will have a greater effect as the brain is rapidly trying to heal itself.
Therapy should start immediately. If that isn’t possible to get PT right away, the patient should start on their own. It’s imperative not to lose out on precious time where neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to grow and evolve in response to change) is at its height.
About adopting a “stroke survivor” mindset: “I once gave a speech to a stroke survivor’s support group. Four people walked into the room using canes. Each of them had been told they’d never walk again.
I have met countless stroke survivors, both on social media and in-person, that have defied the odds and are able to complete activities they were told would be impossible.”Angie Collins-Burke, RN. Co-author of “Just Pick Up The Peg: A Nurse’s Journey Back From Stroke”
For stroke patients, every activity they do is therapy. PT doesn’t stop when the physical therapist walks out of the room. From folding clothes, to taking a drink of water, to playing a game, the body is participating in recovery.
Seek out gifts for stroke patients that not only make their life easier, but support their road to recovery.
Comfort gifts to support stroke recovery
This is a long list of comfort stroke recovery gift ideas. Comfort gifts can help relieve the discomforts of aches and pain. Survivors might have had back pain, or arthritis pre-stroke. In addition, stroke patients are usually put on blood thinners, which have the tendancy to make the patient feel cold. Then, of course, there are the deficits that need TLC, as well as emotional support for the patient.
- Heating pad/UTK infrared heating pad/hot water bottle for pain of sore muscles and joints.
- Electric blanket, or cozy clothing such as a robe or hoodie, and warm socks to help stay combat the freezing feeling of being on blood thinners have).
- Lightweight blanket that’s easy for them to move around themselves.
- A massage gun for affected side.
- Personal TENs unit for pain relief (talk to health provider first, because it can interfere with pacemakers, defibrillators, and similar devices).
- Flexi Kold ice pack.
- Comfy pillows, especially for resting arm with the deficit.
- Adaptable, stretchy, and bigger clothing to get dressed easier, especially if experiencing pain with arms and legs.
- A comfortable bed, or bed with elevation. Try a Serta hybrid, and a Stander EZ Adjust Bed Rail.
- Chairs for stroke patients will make resting and getting out of the chair easier. Look for a recliner with controls for back and legs that can tilt and recline – such as a La-A-Boy model.
- Tilt table for activities in bed, or for fully bedridden patients and ones that work with recliners and for snacking.
- Add a waterproof armchair cover for aid in keeping the chair clean.
- Noise canceling over-the-ear headphones help with over-stimulating sounds.
- Sunglasses are a must if bright lights are a problem, or visit an eye doctor to have prescribed prism glasses.
Communication aids for stroke patients
Being able to continue communication is key to a stroke victim’s recovery. Asphasia (the loss or impairment of language caused by brain damage) can make talking and understanding challenging.
Not all stroke survivors may experience Asphasia. For those who do, swoop in with gifts to empower them, and start strengthening that part of the brain. Here are ideas on how to communicate with someone who has had a stroke:
- Whiteboard. A whiteboard and dry erase markers can be used to remind the patient of upcoming events. The patient can write notes out for what they need (if they still have that ability).
- Picture boards, picture cards, and flash cards allow the patient to show a picture of an idea if they lack the ability to say it.
- Keep on hand lots of spiral notebooks/long list notepads, sticky notes and pens for writing (don’t forget adaptive aids for handwriting).
- Provide communication charts, letter boards/alphabet boards for the stroke patient to communicate.
- Hand bell for ringing to alert the need for assistance.
- Advanced tool: Optikey with Tobii Eye Track to use eyes to type
- Don’t forget non-slip padding on a table so notebooks don’t slide away from them.
- Music therapy, singing therapy, voice therapy can help the stroke patient recover from asphasia.
- Big wall clocks, a changeable daily calendar can help stroke recovery patients get a grasp on time. Or consider a clock that speaks the time when prompted (especially if they can’t read a clock).
- Adaptive computer keyboards and mouse. Look for computer keyboards with larger letters, and a jumbo mouse with large tracking ball. The techhy bunch of stroke survivors will want to stay in touch on Facebook, email, and Internet surf.
The stroke patient often struggles with reading. Reading capabilities can be subpar, and they may even be unable to read at all. Or the stroke survivor can read aloud, but their comprehension may be poor. Books and digital means do provide a distraction through the slow healing process. Consider these thoughts when helping a person enjoy reading and media:
Others reading. Books still make good gifts, even if the stroke patient isn’t ready to read themselves. Visitors can read to the stroke patient when they stop in. This could work for newspapers, too, and make for great discussion.
Fatigue. It can be physically exhausting to process the language on the page and retain it, but it can improve significantly over time. Large print book editions and magazines will make for a more pleasant rreading experience. A magnifying glass may also help in sizing-up normal print.
Reading as therapy. One patient commented, “Audiobooks really helped with my stamina and comprehension… I did a lot of reading/listening to the same sections over and over again for recall.” Encourage the stroke patient to stay with reading, it takes time to rebuild the cognitive part of the brain that suffered damage.
Physical challenges. It takes two hands to hold a book and turn the pages – the stroke patient may not have either of those abilities. Hard cover books might be easier to handle than a paperback. Electronic devices suchs as Kindles or Ipads can be heavy and awkward to handle. Opt for a stand for hands-free viewing.
Stroke recovery books. There are many quality stroke recovery books on therapy ideas, and activity books. Take advantage of them!
High-tech aids for stroke patients
High-tech products have entered the stroke recovery toolbox. Explore these options to see if they are a good fit, or if insurance will pay for them.
FitMi is the first home neurorehab device designed for recovery from stroke head to toe. Works hands, arms, core, and legs. Many survivors have used FitMi from their hospital bed to stay engaged in therapy between visits with their therapist. This takes advantage of that heightened state of plasticity.
This is an awesome gift to get for your loved one recovering from a stroke. If you can’t swing the price tag, maybe all of the family and friends and coworkers can chip in.
Videogames, such as PlayStation and Nintendo. help with movement in thumb and index finger. Playing everyday for 30 minutes can quickly help progress. Make sure you talk to the doctor first, as some eye stimulation may not be good in regards to some brain injuries.
VR games for stroke patients also take advantage in helping the brain heal and make visual connections. See the video below for more details.
Stroke recovery apps. The Constant Therapy App comes highly recommended by stroke patients and family. Another app is CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy App.
Smart home products. I had a friend who relied on Amazon Alexa for his wife with early onset dementia. You can call family and friends with it hands-free, or play music or read a book. The Alexa would need WIFI access, and the patient might not be able to use it in the hospital. It should work great in the home environment when their skills allow.
Bionic body parts for stroke recovery. A bionic leg for stroke patients is still in the testing phases. However, you can get your hands on a robotic glove now (pardon the pun!). There are already many on the market to choose from.
A robotic glove with EMS stimulation, stimulates the use of the hand and fingers for those with limited functions.
Equipment for stroke patients
Give special attention to these humble devices that play a big part in stroke recovery:
Cane. Get a top-notch adjustable quad cane for use when stroke patient is home. You can get a cane in a bright color, or fun patterns. Who says your cane has to be boring? Many people recommend wall mounted mop holders as a clever way to clip your cane to the wall wherever you sit down. For example, the bathroom, near a desk, couch, etc.
Footwear. Good shoes for stroke patients are a must. Shoes should be supportive with good quality inserts, and easy to put on and take off, such as velcro shoes.
“Fallen” foot can be a problem with stroke patients, and a good orthotic insert can improve that.
“People with foot drop can’t raise the front part of the foot because of weakness or paralysis of the muscle that normally lifts it. With foot drop there is difficulty “clearing” the foot while walking, often dragging or scuffing along the ground.” -American Stroke Association
One stroke patient was a fan of Salomon’s XA line of hiking shoes, which provided great traction, and featured a special-quick-lace system, and lasted many years. He said with practice, the lacing system could be operated with one hand.
Wheelchairs for stroke patients. A lightweight Karman wheelchair is a great investment. Accessories like wheelchair trays, bags, and a wheelchair poncho for rainy days have you ready for whatever comes. The person’s house may need to be made wheelchair-accessible. This may be overcome by a portable metal wheelchair ramp, at least until a permanent ramp is built.
Walker for stroke patients. A walker is a useful aid for stroke patient with walking challenges. A Hemi walker for stroke patients is a favorite brand.
Skin stimulation. Another useful gift for the majority of stroke victims is a set of brushes in different hardness that can be used to create different sensations on the skin. They should range from very soft to a little soft. Brushing a paralyzed arm/leg/hand/foot with soft brushes is a good way to train the brain to recognize stimuli by touch.
Mirror aids. Some stroke patients who have a loss of sensation in their face drib, may dribble and/or leave food on their face (which can be quite embarrassing to them). A mirror is a good way for them to keep their face clean, and it can also be used to give visual feedback about sitting posture.
A “mirror box” or “mirror therapy” is actually a real rehab technique that that can help individuals improve mobility in the hand and arms — and sometimes legs.
Exercise equipment. A stationary bike is a great piece of equipment for stroke patients. Smaller foot pedal models for the floor have become popular, such as the Sunny Mini Exercise Bike.
Equipment and therapy aids can be simple, such as resistance bands (stretchy bands). Something like the Posey palm grip can help with a clenched hand or holding a stress ball and trying to grip it. Theraputty is a popular stroke recovery aid to regain strength in the hand (it’s like play dough).
Don’t miss “Fun Gifts for Stroke Patients” for a list of adaptive sports equipment.
Disability gadgets for stroke patients
Quality of life is important after having a stroke. These gadgets make life run a little smoother and less stressful when trying to get things back to normal.
Adaptive kitchen equipment/eating aids
Life moves on, and in a majority of cases, the stroke patient will return home. While they are still working on their deficits, providing adaptive kitchen equipment can aid in independence. Here is a list of ideas for kitchen and eating equipment:
- egg cracker
- spillnot drinks carrier
- Dignity mug (double handle design for ease of use)
- kids sippy cups with handles
- small tumblers, like made by Contigo
- Uccello Electric Safety Kettle
- one-handed can opener
- automatic bottler opener
- electric can opener
- jar gripper
- wall mounted bottle opener
- under counter jar opener
- adaptive cutlery (like rocking knives)
- adaptive eating utensils
- one-handed plate
- adaptive cutting board with vice (holds food still so you can slice easily)
- silicone grip mat
- pill crusher, a pill cutter, and a pill organizer
- pre-portioned snacks
I’m sure you’re already in the know for making the home more handicap accessible. Regardless, I’m dropping a list of ideas here to make the home more user-friendly for a stroke survivor:
- grab bars in the showers
- bath/shower chair
- hand rails by the stairs
- replace round door knobs with the lever types
- clear the floor of wires and cords and other small things
- car handle aid
- leg lifter
- non-slip mats, grip take for holding objects, such as Cat Tongue Grip Tape
- magnetic pencil holder shelf
Some stroke patients report that lifting and lowering is difficult. This can be the bed, a chair, bathing aids, or a toilet. You will definitely want very secure equipment in place. Many stroke patients fear falling. Buy well-built, quality stroke support products. If you are not confident in installing them, seek out a professional who can.
Clothing for stroke patients
- long handled shoe horn
- kids curly shoe laces that you don’t have to tie/ no-tie shoelaces;
Zubits is a magnetic shoe lacing solution
- underwear and bras for stroke patients
- button puller
- bra dressing aid
- stick dressing aid
- Socks: Give good non-slip grip socks or rubber-sold slippers that cover the heel of the foot. Soles should provide good traction against the floor. Falling is a concern.
All of these aids can give independence to the stroke survivor. Strive to help the person find ways to accomplish daily tasks and overcome obstacles:
- Get creative: clamp a hairdryer to a deskstand so they can brush and dry their own hair.
- Provide extra storage around where the person sits so they can tidy up without extra steps.
- Tote bags work good to carry things around between point A and point B.
- Having multiples of things eliminates the hassles of carrying things one-handed.
The stroke patient will grow in confidence.
Peace of mind for family
Although you want your loved one to gain their independence back, safety is your first concern.
Family members share that they put cameras in the house to monitor elderly parents. Even if they are only working in another room, the devices give them peace of mind.
Nest cameras that connect to an app are recommended when you can’t be at home with the stroke survivor.
Gift of time
Probably the most important thing that family can do is give their time. Many stroke survivors report that friends drift away after a few weeks or months. Having support really makes a difference in recovery.
As you can see, this article is overwhelming, there is a lot for a stroke patient to figure out. Helping them with these multitudes of decisions can be a huge help.
A young stroke victim with young kids commented on how all the little gestures of kindness really helped her get through the ordeal. As she put it, “anything that helped THEM helped me.” If you’re looking for more of those “little things” you can do to help out in a big way, check out “Giving Support to a Sick Person.”