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|This is a very stressful time for patients and families who are experiencing the initial effects of stroke. Establish a rapport with family members as soon as possible. Family members are often able to give an account of the events leading up to the stroke and hospitalization. They are often able to provide critical information about the patient’s prior level of function, home environment and medical history that will be helpful during discharge planning.
When family members are present, encourage them to remain in the room during your treatment session. Begin to assess their level of involvement and potential as caregivers. Observe their interactions with the stroke survivor. Determine their ability and whether they can safely follow through with instruction.
Allowing family members to observe therapy gives them a concrete visual of how their loved one is doing. Sometimes it is helpful for family members to see the reality of the situation.
Begin family teaching. Early instruction offers empowerment by way of participation in the rehabilitation process. Families can choose how involved they will be in the patient’s recovery. Assessing this level of involvement as well as the family’s abilities is important for making the discharge decision: do they feel competent and safe enough to help the patient at home?
If family members are disruptive during your treatment session or if the room is too small, ask them to wait outside. Be sure to find them afterwards and explain what you have been doing and be available for them to ask you questions.
Most importantly, don’t expect family members to take over your role as the therapist. Their most important role is to be the loved one for the stroke survivor. If they can also be therapeutic, then that is a bonus.