Helping Children understand the Effects of Stroke on Loved Ones

February 2017

General Practitioners

Country of origin: USA

Speedy treatment is essential to saving lives and preventing brain damage during a stroke. But the rapid pace of events also can leave patients and family members confused about what has happened and what to expect.

That's especially true for children whose parents or grandparents have a stroke, according to Mark P Goldberg, MD, professor of neurology and director of the Hope Center for Neurological Disorders at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Caring for a recuperating family member can make it challenging to find time to explain to kids the causes and effects of a stroke, which adults may only partially understand themselves.

"For kids, this can be very frightening," Goldberg comments. "The stroke patient's changes in mood and ability to communicate are scary to a child who doesn't understand that this is a manifestation of the stroke that often will get better. We looked, but there was very little available in the way of kid-friendly books or websites that could help."

Now a new resource is available for children through the Internet Stroke Center at Washington University School of Medicine, a stroke information website founded and directed by Goldberg.

"When Grandpa Comes Home: A Story About Stroke" is an illustrated online book. The narrator, a young girl named Janie, describes her experiences when her grandfather moves in with the family after a stroke. Included are brief, child-friendly explanations of what causes stroke; why stroke can lead to changes in mood, verbal and physical ability and behaviour; and what can be done to reduce the risk of stroke.

As Janie watches her grandfather and her parents struggle with new limitations imposed by the stroke, she moves beyond her initial resentment of those changes and develops her own ways of helping her grandfather celebrate and cope with the ups and downs of recovery.

In addition to "When Grandpa Comes Home?," the Internet Stroke Center contains a national registry of clinical stroke trials and extensive information for adult family members and patients on the causes of stroke, what to expect after a stroke and how to help patients during the recovery process.

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