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Elderly father's progressive stroke

My 73-year-old father suffered a stroke 5 days ago.  The blockage is in the left brain.  He has aphasia.  His right side is virtually nonfunctional.  He is in critical care at a medical center in California while we his five children live on the east coast.  Two of us flew to see him immediately following the stroke.  We stayed for three days.  He sobbed uncontrollably as we left.  His wife now tells us that he refuses to eat and has sunk into a depression worse than he already was.  We plan to return in a couple of weeks and call him every day to reassure him he will see us again.  Aside from taking leaves of absence from our jobs and leaving our children in others' care for a while, borrowing money to live in California for several weeks or months, is there anything you can suggest so that we may help him more from so far away?  There's much more to the story, including our suspicions that his wife makes him feel worse by telling him we don't care enough to stay out there while he heals... but I won't get into it.  It's not helpful.
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Avatar universal
Ouch!  This sounds like a painful situation for all of you.  Have you thought of moving him to an east coast rehab so that you all can visit him more?  Would his wife go along with that?  I gather that his wife is not your mother.  If she has been his wife for only a short while, a judge might well allow the joint decision of all his adult children to override the decision of a new-ish wife.
Avatar universal
Why do you call it a "progressive" stroke?
Avatar universal
Thanks for your concern.  Theyve been married for 25 years, his 3rd wife.  He had his first "stroke" 7 years ago while visiting here on the east coast.  We almost lost him, and he did not recover to the man he previously was.  He became very dependent upon her.  During that episode, while he was in ICU here in the east, she instructed all doctors and nurses not to give us any information.  We had no legal recourse, she had and still has all control legally.  While still in ICU she flew him back to California in a very expensive air-ambulance so that she could be closer to her own family, despite my dad's need to be near his children, not to mention the best hospitals in the country.  Thats the story in a very small nutshell.  I hoped to get some suggestions as to how to get him motivated to eat and to fight to get better through this depression.  What would you do?  My employer does not offer any time off for family members being ill, not to mention any sort of paid leave-of-absence.  The best we can do is visit every few weeks, however the airfare and hotel expenses... well you see my dilemma.  Any thoughts?
Avatar universal
P.S.  the doctors at the medical center told us it's a "progressive stroke" meaning the blockage is still active and deficits will continue to worsen until it disappears.
Avatar universal
Sounds like you're not going to be able to help your dad the way you'd like to.  Seems to me the two courses open to you are accomodation or an adversarial relationship.

Adversarial:  Try to convince a judge that your dad would be better with one or more of his kids as his guardian than with his wife of 25 years as his guardian, and in a rehab near where his kids live rather than in a rehab near where his wife lives.  Not likely to succeed unless you can show that she's harming him.  The fact that he "wept uncontrollably" when you left seems to say something.  Does she love him?  Does he trust her to act in his best interest?  BUT, would any of you five, with your young lives and your young families, be able to sustain the responsibility of caring for him?

Accomodation:  Say to her "This must be so hard for you.  What can I do to make it easier for you?  What can I do to help him?"  (Maybe even "If you ever need a respite, I could take him to such and such rehab center"  --the one you favor near his kids.)

I'm shocked that she was able to block medical information being given to his own children seven years ago.  Has he never had the cognitive ability since the first stroke to make some kind of legal statement that he wants info given to you five?  Or is he so dependent on her and afraid of loosing her support that he's afraid to oppose her?

How old is she?  When my dad was in his 90's and needing decisions made for him, the doctors all turned to me rather than to his elderly wife of two years, but your situation is very different since they've been married for 25 years and she's probably fairly young.

Depression after a stroke is so common and so hard to deal with.  Even those of us who are directly caring for our loved one, with no interference or blocking by another person, struggle with this.  The best defense against post-stroke depression is tangible, visible progress in getting back one's ability to function.

One thought: Wouldn't it be better if his children visit him one at a time, to make visits last longer, rather than having two go at a time?  Obviously it's nice to have the support of a sibling at such a difficult time, but he would get twice as much visit if you can handle it (and her!) alone.

Hope someone else can give you more ideas than I can.  Caregiver is full of good ideas, but they mostly apply to the one who is actively caring for the stroke survivor.  Hard to imagine what you personally can do at a distance, except to be sure that he's getting good therapy, and even that isn't easy to come by, as you'll see from reading posts here.  
Avatar universal
Well, my experience is limited to my stroke-survivor father and stroke-survivor husband.  Neither one lost their appetite.  But certainly some depressed people do, so it's not surprising that your father has.  I wouldn't think it could cause another stroke unless he became terribly malnourished and lacked nutirents that are necessary for good circulation/clotting/etc.  Is his wife amenable to your suggesting nutritional supplements?
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