How to take care of a parent suffering from stroke

Last week was my first intensive lesson on caring for a parent, my father Cesar  who was suffering from stroke. In all his 87 years, my father  never had a major brain issue until a stroke  last march 13. He and my mother was on their way to Mass when his shoe fell and he couldnt move. My siblings in Lucena brought him instantly to a hospital and galvanized the professionals in Mt. Carmel hospital to diagnose my father’s conditions. On that sunday morning, my sister Ceres, a doctor, consulted with three doctors : a neurologist, a cardiologist and an infectious disease specialist. The findings indicated he has a stroke in the right brain and has pneumonia. Had my father been a poor farmer who lived in a far flung barrio, he would have ended dead. It takes prompt action and resources to get the right medical action. Of course, it helped that my father was conscious and could tell the doctors what was happening to him, that there were no sensations on his left arm, left leg and had a hard time swallowing.

The right brain that is affected is the cerebellum which controls the voluntary motion of the left part of the body. Note that when a stroke is scanned, I learned that it does not always indicate the stroke impact on all the nerves of the body. When I finally got to see my father on Wednesday, he had already regained some sensations but still was incapable of rising from the bed and cannot even flick his left wrist.

There are movements that reveal how far the brain is suffering from a stroke and the neurologist explained that helping a person regain movement from every joint, ankle, knee, elbow are crucial so that the stroke doesn’t progress. That is an important lesson in strokes – tell your brain to link to the parts that is losing sensation, or lift whatever you can – wiggle fingers, wiggle toes, raise your arm, make faces, move. I did my bodytalk practice on my father twice a day – tapping his head and heart, linking the right side to the left side which is called reciprocals to energize him, and hydrating him. My father had to drink from a straw slowly so that he wouldnt  gag. He could barely eat but eat he did with all the gentle persuasion. He always asked for his favorite drink  food –  coffee, soda and chocolates.

Second tip, we  did the daily answer and question exercises ” What is your name? Who is your beloved? How many children do you have, name them according to order ? who are your parents?” It is important that a stroke doesnt make mental faculties deteriorate and so every conversation is a healing session. My father never lost his sense of  humour, whenever the nurses would ask him ” what is your name, he would reply “Cesar Araneta Villariba”. When other questions  would exact more sentences from him, “The usual.” was his answer.

Third tip, one needs to know what is happening around him and so every visitor who came had to be in joyful mood.

We smuggled a bright apo, TJ, who talks of the current news in Japan like a BBC newscaster and he is just 5 years old ! Children below 7 years old are not allowed to visit.  Also we took time to make all the nurses fed with sweets and magazines  and the rehab team with pizza so that they would look after our father as their own parent. Our nursing workforce are dedicated but overworked and underpaid. I am impressed with their diligence and the night nurses are tops. I myself couldnt do those 12 hour night shifts with a smile. my mother Nene,  80 years old, had to be brought to the ER by the 5th night due to stress and fatigue. am glad she didnt get a heart attack as i never prayed that hard in my whole life while tests were conducted on her. My parents are both one octogenarians and their love has spanned 6 decades which is the most precious healing item in my father’s recovery. I told Ed that my mother and father didnt want a single hour  of separation, they were always holding each other.

So after 6 days, we got our father back at home where everyone can care for him with tender loving care.

We are all thankful for the prayers from New York to Liverpool, from the Carmelite nuns to the Discalced Carmelites lay sisters and brothers, from our relatives and classmates, academic and social colleagues and even Facebook friends of friends. Maraming salamat po. It takes various praying communities to get someone like my father recovering in a week. We hope this community will also pray for the Japanese people and those suffering from the wars in the Arab world. Amen.

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