Perception problems after right-hemisphere strokes
When you're caring for someone who's had a stroke, you might notice she's having perception problems -- specifically with visual and spatial cues. For instance, she could be having a hard time finding her way around her own house or figuring out how to brush her hair.
Perception problems can make it difficult to perform any task that requires seeing how things relate to one another.
Because the right brain is in charge of recognizing visual and spatial cues, perception problems usually occur in people who've had right-hemisphere strokes.
Some right-hemisphere stroke survivors lose their entire left visual field. A stroke survivor might neglect her left side, only trimming the toenails on her right foot. In the most extreme cases, stroke survivors sometimes deny their left sides entirely. For example, a person might refuse to believe that her left arm is part of her body.
Common signs of perception problems
- Lack of awareness: Not being aware of people, things, or even body parts on the affected (usually the left) side
- A focus on the unaffected side: Consistently turning toward the unaffected (usually the right) side
- Confusion: Being confused about which is the inside and outside, or the right and left side, of clothing
- Clumsiness: Not being able to walk or navigate a wheelchair or walker through a large doorway without bumping the door frame
What you can do to help someone with perception problems after a stroke
- Minimize danger. Put sharp objects and dangerous chemicals out of reach to minimize the chance of accidental injury.
- Pad edges. Cover corners and edges of furniture and doorways to avoid bumps and bruises. You can buy childproofing products at the hardware store, or you can improvise your own using foam rubber or towels.
- Emphasize the right side. If a stroke survivor has lost her entire left visual field, place most items she uses frequently on her right side. One exception: Have her put her watch on her affected side. Whenever she checks the time, she'll be reminded of her left arm.
- Encourage a wider visual field. Periodically remind her to move her head from side to side to scan a wider area.
- Keep it calm. Keep the environment as calm and quiet as possible so she can focus on whatever she's doing.
- Minimize clutter. Minimize clutter so she can find what she needs and avoid tripping.