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After a stroke


Question: My granny is 93 and has always been very active and independent until this year, after a series of strokes. She suffered some minor speech issues, but other than that she has not been left with major effects as far as the doctors can tell. Lately, she has just stopped wanting to eat. She takes only a few bites here and there and is sleeping a lot. She's very weak, but not in any pain other than occasional leg pains that she has had for a long time. Her heart has gotten much weaker per the doctor, so some of her lack of energy is understandable. What can we, her family and caregivers, do to help get her strength back if she's not willing to eat or drink? It's like she's giving up and it's just terrible to watch—she has been my idol for so many years. I just love her and want to help her, but I'm not sure she even wants the help at this point.

Dr. Amy: Stroke affects everyone differently—physically, mentally and emotionally. As you likely know, a lot depends on what part of the brain was injured and how much damage was done. Regardless of what kind of stroke she had, it’s very common for people to be tired afterwards, since the body has so much to recover from.

Depression is also very common and I wonder if perhaps this might be affecting your granny. I encourage you to talk with her stroke rehabilitation team and ask about depression. If this can be managed, her overall recovery may pick up. Is she getting the right rehabilitation? Rehab is an essential part of recovery. It’s designed to help stroke patients re-learn skills—such as eating—regain their strength, and prepare to live independently again if that is possible.  As her caregivers, your family has an important role to play in helping put the rehab plan into action.

You are so lucky to have a granny who has been your idol. She sounds like she’s had a great life, being very active and independent until she is 93. She’s aged successfully and remained healthy well into old age. That bodes well for her ability to regain her strength.  At the same time, she may not want to. My grandmother lived to be almost 99 and she often said, in the last few years, that she was "ready to go." She had had a great life and in her late nineties she no longer felt the need to keep living. She wasn't depressed; she just felt her time here was done.  I know this may be hard for you and your family, but perhaps you could talk to granny to find out what she is feeling—and give her the support she needs on her journey. I send you strength and peace.

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