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Desperate situation after stroke, please help

My mom ( 61 years old )had a stroke 8 days ago. She is still in ICU and suffering from her sad situation. The stroke affected on her left arm and leg. Fortunately, she is completely aware of everything . However the most painful part is the swallowing problem. She is still get food through the nose tubs, so her mouth and tongue are very dry. Her extremely dry mouth and not able to drink is driving her nuts and not sure what to do to help her. Her doctors don’t tell us how many days more she has to suffer this way. She is NOT  really able tolerate this condition, so she has just started to say some not logical sentences.So, I am wondering if being in ICU and under all stress and pressure make her crazy or any other side affects on top of the others. Thanks in advance.
9 Responses
Avatar universal
Thanks for using the forum. I am happy to address your questions, and my answer will be based on the information you provided here. Please make sure you recognize that this forum is for educational purposes only, and it does not substitute for a formal office visit with your doctor.

It sounds like your mother has unforunately had a stroke. If her weakness on the left side of her body, this implies her stroke is likely on the right side of her brain. In most patients, this means that language skills are not usually too affected, though speech may be slurred. If her stroke is in the area of the brain called the cortex, she may neglect (not pay attention to) the left side of her environment.

The muscles involved in swallowing can be affected by stroke, leading to swallowing problems. Aspiration pneumonia, or substances entering the lungs from the mouth and upper GI tract, is one of the most serious complications of a stroke. To avoid aspiration, patients are sometimes not fed through their mouth following a stroke, particularly when the have evident swallowing dysfunction. Sometimes a tube is placed in the mouth or nose temporarily. If it seems that the swallowing dysfunction is not going to resolve in the short term, a feeding tube (PEG) can be placed in the stomach, this procedure has some complications but they are not common. A PEG tube is more comfortable for the patient and is entirely reversible: it can be removed after a few months if swallowing function recovers, which it often does in patients with stroke.

Being in an ICU can certainly be stressful, with frequent examinations and checks the patient doesn't get much rest, it is noisy and family members can not always be around. Sometimes, patients in the hospital, particularly older patients in an ICU, can develop what is called a delirium, an alteration in their level of alertness and awareness. Sometimes it can be associated with confusion and hallucinations. This will usually resolve once the patient is out of the ICU, though patients older than 65-70 sometimes have trouble recovering from this.

Depending on where your mom's stroke is, there can be changes in her personality. These may include child-like behavior that you describe, in addition to more subtle and more dramatic changes. Some of these changes resolve with time, while others do not. It is important to watch out for depression, this is common following stroke and responds well to medications.

Depending again on where your mother's stroke is, sometimes pain can result from the direct effect of the stroke. Other times, over weeks to months, the muscles on the side of the body affected by the stroke become spastic, very stiff and tight, which can be painful. There are both oral medications and injections which can help if this stiffness occurs.

Physical therapy and occupational therapy as I'm sure you know are very important following a stroke. It is important to continue them at home even after discharge and outpatient physical therapy services have ended.

Followup with your mom's stroke specialist or general neurologist is key to ensuring that her risk factors for stroke are managed, so that the risk of recurrent stroke is minimized.

Thank you for using the forum, I hope you find this information useful, good luck.
Avatar universal
My mother (76) had a stroke 2 1/2 weeks ago with left side paralysis and swallowing problems.  She is now in acute rehab. We fortunately didn't have to go through a feeding tube, but she still can't swallow properly.

What we did for my mother while in the hospital  and complaining of dry mouth and wanting water, was they had these sponges on a stick (look like green lollipops).  We'd dunk them in ice cold water, wring them out against the side of the cup, and wipe down her lips, mouth,  and teeth.   After a day or so she could do this herself with her good hand if we prepared and handed it to her.

Not exactly water but better than nothing for a dry mouth.  Ask the hospital pcts or nurse, they should have these sponges on a stick.

I hope your mother gets well soon.  She is very young and will hopefully fight her way through rehab.  Have patience with her and be aware her brain is doing a lot of work already repairing the damage from the stroke.
Avatar universal
Thanks Lois for the information.
I am wondering how long they kept your mother in ICU. Do you know what reasons were for keeping her in ICU. Is she getting better in rehab? Dose she has a lot of pain? My mother complains of intolerable pain.
I hope your mother gets speedy recovery.
551116 tn?1288193847
My brotherinlaw is recovering from a very severe stroke which pretty much shut down the left side of his body.  He spent a couple of weeks in ICU, then a few weeks in a stroke care section of the hospital, then 4 months in a skilled nursing facility (SNF).  He was 67 when the stroke occured.  He is now home, and my sister is his primary caregiver - a fulltime job at this time.

He is now able to walk across the house, and go up and down stairs.  Some of his cognitive abilities that were affected have returned.  He also complains of pain - the therapists state that this can be "phantom pain" or it could be something called "central pain" that is from damage from the stroke.  You can just touch his left food and he says it feels like someone is standing on his foot.

I had an elderly aunt who experienced something her doctor called "ICU Neurosis" when she was several days on a ventilator and a couple of weeks in ICU...she thought she was back working at a job she held in the 1930's instead of the ICU and actually called the sheriff because she felt she was being held at the job against her will.  After getting back in more familiar surroundings this disassociation stopped.  Strangely enough it did not seem medication related, which was my first thought because drugs sometimes work differently with elderly people.

I beleive for the dry mouth there is also something like "artificial tears"  - a sort of artifical saliva - that can be used, but I think Lois382's idea about the sponge swabs works just as well..

Hope your mom has continued improvement.

Avatar universal
Thanks mel134 for your response.
I have some more question for you.In your brotherinlaw's cas, did you see some non logical behavior? My mom has discharge from ICU and now she is able to eat and getting more stable, but something that made us so worry is that we notice she is not logic as mush as she used to be or a normal person is. For example,  she sometimes acts like children or talks too much or asking something more that enough. Are you or anyone had the same experience?
Thanks for your help in advance.    
551116 tn?1288193847
My brother in law has impulsive issues - as in he sees food he eats like he's starving and at first after the stroke he tried to put all the food in his mouth at once like a little child.

Sometimes he would respond incorrectlyl or just impulsively talk about something at random that didn't have anything to do with the conversation.  Also he would get an idea (like there are spiders in the wastebasket) and he couldn't believe that the idea was false even when you demonstrated that he didn't need to be afraid.  This has improved over the months, but is still an issue.

Everyone has different damage, and in my brother in law's case there was so much damage it was difficult to determine exactly what was specifically wrong at first.  

I am so glad your mother is now out of the ICU, hopefully as she heals and receives therapy some these problems you notice now will improve.  Let the nurses and doctors know of your concerns.  They should be happy to help you understand what is happening with your mom, and what the next steps should be, and what to expect in the future.
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