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Mom had a stroke March of 2014. I spent several months with her in remote WV (where she'd lived for 30+ years) helping her through rehab etc. She seemed to be doing ok and I returned home to Chicago. Dad died in 2010 so she was alone except for a few cousins. She returned to work as a testing instructor but found she couldn't do it so quit. She'd agreed to move in with my brother last fall so she wouldn't be home alone during the winter. That fell through, for a lot of reasons, but my husband and I moved to a bigger home in May and moved mom here with us in early July. She's been increasingly more difficult. She rarely talks to us and when she does, it's in response to something we say. We have no idea how she's feeling unless she's in pain (she's recently come down with shingles so is in a fair amount of pain). She shuts down when there is any hint of conflict and simply will not communicate. We have no idea what she wants, what she feels, etc. As an example, if we take her out to eat, she has no idea what she wants, she'll order whatever I'm having (even if it's something I know she doesn't like). She's forgotten how to say please and thank you. If she assumes she's going someone and anything that might be construed as a little big negative is said, like "I didn't expect you to go while you're in such pain. I would think the chairs would be uncomfortable", she shuts down and simply says that she'll stay home.


Yesterday afternoon, I had a headache and went to lay down. My husband came home to find her sitting in the family room with no lights on, no tv, no ipad, nothing, just sitting there. Maybe sleeping, maybe just staring off into space. Is that normal? Is not communicating in any way normal? Is anything normal after a stroke? Is this kind of behavior what I have to look forward to for the next ten years?


She's 78 so I would think she would want to try to have a life but she just doesn't seem interested in doing anything. I'm going nuts :(

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Wow, you all have given me a lot to think about and do. I'll think on this and come back. Thank you so very much for the replies. It's wonderful to know that I'm not alone here.
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She maybe suffering from vascular dementia. If you haven't already done so, Google it's symptoms from a reputable source like Mayo Clinic or WebMD. And of course, consult with her doctor. My mother is post-stroke (2006) and it's been a very, very slow decline and only in the last 2.5 years is when the decline really picked-up. She's lost her verbal communication and, instead, talks gibberish and makes incoherent sounds to let me know she needs something; she has severe urinary incontinence; she's lost her mobility and is a Hoyer Lift transfer; she also suffers from PBA (Google the Danny Glover video if you aren't familiar with these symptoms yet) and randomly cries and laughs for no reason. She's confused all the time and can't make one decision herself. I'm not trying to depress you but it's going to get worse so you need to prepare now before the crap hits the fan. I've resigned to the fact that my mother has not and will not improve so I had to learn her style of communication to meet her needs. I recommend you pay attention to her speech selection, her behavior, her habits and you may see a pattern to where she's trying to tell you something; for example, when my mother's undergarment is wet and needs to be changed, she'll make a certain sound and I know what to check for. Your mother can't make decisions anymore so you'll have to make all decisions for her. When your in public you should order food for her and talk to her gently, letting her know she'll like this meal because you remember it's one of her favorites. She's a child now. I also recommend you check with homecare agencies to see if they have caregivers specialized in stroke. There are agencies that offer this service but it all depends on where you live. There may be day programs specifically for stroke patients but you'll need to do some research, like call Area Agency of Aging to begin with. But it'll get to the point, like now with my mother, that your mother may become fully homebound so you need to prepare for this worst case scenario now, with your work, with your family, with your finances.
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Another thought - don't ask her what she would like to do; ask her if she would like to do something specific and name it. It's probably hard for her to make decisions and choices.
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I'm now clinically knowledgeable about depression but I think a few of the factors of dealing with it are recognition as well as being able to think back to before the tragedies started, which for someone who's depressed could amount to "thinking outside the box." I think that task falls to you now.

Have you contacted local hospitals to see if there are any stroke support groups? It might help you even if she doesn't want to go.

Focus on what she likes to do. She reads; there are book clubs at libraries. Read the book to be discussed and take her. Even if she doesn't contribute, she might benefit just from getting out and being challenged by the ideas she hears being discussed.

If she's not ready for a book club, at least take her to the library. To me libraries and book stores are for book lovers like toy stores are to children.

I really don't think you should expect her to engage by herself. Go with her, support, help her get acquainted with others, and do that until she feels comfortable enough by herself.

Think of it as similar to when you were learning to ride a bike. Your parents probably held onto the bike and stabilized it until you were ready to ride on your own. Now you can/need to help reorient herself until she's able to do some things on her own.

I do think it's very positive that she enjoys reading and can use a computer though.

There are some good online literature forums with discussions on everything from the classics to contemporary literature. Perhaps she'd be interested in just reading the discussions & 6possibly participating.

I think Twizard hits on some valid points - lots of changes in a fairly short time, lots of adjustments to make, some of which just may be too difficult to do alone.
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I'm glad it's long. You gave me some things to think about. It doesn't appear that she's having mini strokes and the doctor doesn't think so either. I am with her all day. She's very uncommunicative lately, almost like she is pouting because I'm not doing things she likes. She loves garage sales, estate sales, etc but I can only do so many of those before I'm totally burned out and we did a good amount of them this summer and fall. I've given her information on the Senior Center and activities they have there but she isn't interested in anything in particular. If I wanted to go with her, she said she "supposed she would go".

She didn't have a large social circle. She lived in a very remote area of West Virginia. Her nearest grocery store was 15 miles away and that was just a little town.

She does have control of her body now. I helped her through rehab and she's regained control of her bladder, and her right arm / leg. They aren't as good as they were before the stroke, but she can walk unaided and use her right arm and hand. She recently bought a laptop and uses that as well as reads on her iPad. She watches TV too. We've tried to let her know what is in the area but she isn't interested in exploring. She wanted a library card so I helped her get her new drivers licence and plates for her vehicle and then a library card. She's only driven twice since she moved here. I don't think she's real comfortable behind the wheel anymore but she has gone to Kohls twice.

I agree that she is depressed and sad but I don't know how to help her. She's not doing anything to help herself and pushes me away when I try to talk to her. If it's something she's uncomfortable talking about, she just shuts me down and walks away. In the six months she's been living her, she's had several episodes where she got upset over something and hibernated in her bedroom for several days.

She's never really had any hobbies other than reading. My father was blind and she took care of him for 30+ years in addition to working. Since her stroke, she's become quite frail . I wouldn't say she's healthy and able to do much at all. Not at all like she was a couple of years ago. I can understand that she might not know how to kick start herself into living, but I don't know how to help her either. She just isn't apparently interested in anything except reading, watching tv and staring off into space.

I'm going to look further into the senior center... I don't know if I can get her to engage there without me but I would like to try. I'm feeling now like she wants to live my life and I don't need that, as bad as that sounds.

Oh, my reply is probably as long as yours. I've got so much stored up and so much frustration. I want to help her but I want her to help herself too and I get nothing from her at all. If it's shopping related, she's in.
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Sorry about the book. But I have found that taking a stroke victim to a senior center or groups that do things she has long been able to do can get her engaged. But I didn't realize how long that answer was till I had posted it.
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Is she having mini strokes? How does she spend her day? Is she alone most of the day? After a stroke, many patients become uncommunicative. And they can suffer from extreme depression.

This sounds like a series of major changes. 1) stroke, which is loss of brain function and sometimes bodily function and/or control; 2) loss of job (which is loss of independence, social network, structured day, income, and often is also a loss of something that gives us a sense of pride and self-worth), 3) a move to another state, which means loss of social network, friends, things she is familiar with like stores, surroundings, church, cultural norms, and 4) loss of her own home, furniture, neighbors, independence and control of her own life.

That is a LOT of change, in a very short amount of time. And then there is the awareness of loss of health and vigor, the sudden knowledge that she has gone from being a vigorous, productive, happy, independent (and likely in her mind, middle-aged) person, to suddenly feeling old, useless, dependent, worthless, sad, depressed, and in poor health.

I do not mean that she is useless or worthless. I am merely stating how she may be feeling. And, on top of that, it has only been 5 years since she lost her husband. It takes 1 year of grief for every 5 years of marriage to process just that.

She may need some activities and new social network to help her. Can she go to the senior center? Can she take classes or participate in activities that she has always had as hobbies, such as quilting, knitting, photography, etc? How is her physical health? Can she join red hat society or local groups to work as volunteer?

Learning new hobbies may be beyond her capabilities, as often happens in these cases. But she may be able to join in groups that do things she has known how to do for years. Or if she can't do the activity, she may be able to participate by helping the groups. Are there volunteer opportunities answering phones or working gift shops or thrift shops for hospitals or local charities or churches?

Are there senior trips organized by senior center that she can participate in? If she was a testing director, can she function as proctor at the local schools for kids with disabilities who take the test under special conditions?

It sounds like she may be depressed and sad, if she is not having further mini strokes.

After strokes, it is important to become and stay engaged as much as you can in activities, groups, networks, etc. and, with all the changes, your mom may be feeling "lost". And, in unfamiliar surroundings, she may not know how to kick start herself again into living life.
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Mystii, please realize she is not going to get better. We went through the same problems with Mom and finally decided not to take her to restaurants or even large family gatherings. She just couldn't handle it. What you see seems not "normal" but fairly "typical" for a stroke victim. The train of thought is reduced to just the caboose: able to look back but not forward.
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