A stroke changes life for the survivor and everyone involved. Not only do survivors experience physical changes, but many experience personality changes ranging from apathy to neglect.
Some survivors just don’t seem to care about anything. The best response to apathy is activity. Give your loved one a choice of what to do for the day. (Staying in bed usually shouldn’t be an option.)
Other survivors experience neglect, an attentional disorder in which the patient does not pay attention to things on one side of the body. Neglect can run the gamut from someone who doesn’t recognize paralyzed limbs as their own to those who ignore food on one side of the plate or words on one side of the page.
Neglect occurs most often in right-hemisphere strokes, causing inattention to the left side. Of course, driving is extremely dangerous for anyone with this disorder.
Family members can help survivors by encouraging them to pay attention to the neglected side. For example, talking to them from their affected side helps them to focus and concentrate on that side. Stimulation and encouragement to use the neglected side also helps decrease their neglect.
Another personality change that occurs after stroke is impulsiveness. This is characterized as the inability to think ahead or understand consequences. Impulsiveness is more commonly seen in people with right-side or a frontal lobe stroke.
Are these permanent changes?Personality changes after stroke can be distressing, but they’re not always permanent. Depression is treatable. Talk to your healthcare provider about talk therapy, support groups and anti-depressant drugs.
In a situation involving impulsiveness or inappropriate behavior, behavioral interventions may help. Consistently remind the survivor to slow down or put a lap belt on a chair so he or she can’t just jump up. Verbal and visual cuing and repeated reminders can help a person with poor impulse control to slow down.