Recovery: how to tell my grandma she suffered a severe ischemic stroke?
My grandma, 85 years young, suffered a severe ischemic stroke on April 16th. Since I live with her I was able to assist her and call 911 immediately. She was seen by two neurologists and had a CT scan done within the first hour. Doctors said they wouldn’t use the rtPA on her because of her age and because she has a (not too serious) arrhythmia, which, from what they told me, could potentially trigger a severe brain hemorrhage.
She’s been hospitalized since then, had another CT scan done 48 hours later which showed severe brain damage on her right side (her left side of the body was paralyzed right after she suffered the stroke). Doctors say she won’t be able to recover mobility whatsoever.
After almost two weeks of daily heartbreaking visits to the hospital, she finally woke up yesterday. She’s able to recognize people and, even though her speech is still quite slow and slurred at times, I am amazed at how her cognitive capacities seem to be improving! She gets tired from speaking after a while, so we try not to wear her out too much, but after asking her some questions I am able to realize that her memory seems to be astonishingly intact, too.
The neurologists say that they’ll remove the feeding tubes next week, and if she’s able to eat again, she’ll probably be home in about one week, one week ½.
We’re preparing everything to receive her, knowing beforehand that we’ll have to make many changes around the house and in our daily routines as well. HOWEVER, this is what worries me the most:
Twice already she’s asked me what’s happened to her, to which I replied that she took a big fall and hit her head severely (she’s rather clumsy and has always been prone to tripping and falling, even when she was younger). All her life she said that her biggest fear was getting old and having a stroke. Before this, she was 100% independent, I talked to her about anything and everything at all, she spent her days reading, watching movies and loved walking in the garden. I am deeply worried about how she’ll handle this new condition of hers: not being able to have her independence and having to rely on other people to do her everyday chores.
If anyone could tell me what’s the best way to tell her these news, I would highly appreciate it. For now, she’s still a bit confused (at times she’s not sure whether she’s at home or at the hospital, although she’s fully aware that something happened to her), thus I think it’s best to wait to have this conversation with her, at least until she’s back home in her environment and surrounded by the people she loves.
Thank you in advance for any help you might have to offer.
It would be best to reveal the facts slowly and discussing the gravity of the situation is best left for later. It is good that she has shown signs of improvement and should progress over the next few weeks. However recovery may not be complete (almost nil post 6 months) and slight lifestyle modifications may need to be made to accommodate independent/ assisted functioning. At this time I would suggest concentrating on physical and occupational therapy along with activities to improve cognitive function. Also risk factors for the stroke (if any) would need to be managed appropriately. You may like to discuss the situation, the management plan and the expected prognosis in detail with her treating neurologist.
Hope this helps.
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