Severe personality changes after strokes?

8 answers | Last updated: Oct 22, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Almost a year ago my husband of 14 years had a serious stroke that affected both sides of his brain, he was 58 at the time and not his first stroke, but the worst one by far. He was in rehab for a month and then he went home and had in-home physical therapy for another month, until we ran out of insurance care. He has much difficulty walking and trouble using his hands. At first he did his exercises but that dwindled until now he does nothing but watch TV and take a shower (at least he does that since he is incontinent.) He used to do the dishes and suddenly stopped and said that he didn't like doing them. I tried and tried to get him to at least do that! If I suggest that he do something he yells at me. His personality has greatly changed, he used to be sweet. I think he hates me now. I have been told that he has had many strokes and will keep stroking which will affect his personality. I try to be patient, but it is difficult. None of his friends have stood by him and none of my friends and family want to hear about any problems, except for my daughter. His daughter (my step-daughter) has not visited since his stroke, although she keeps saying that she will. He keeps telling me to shut up and just leave him alone, I am essentially a maid and chauffeur. Fortunately I have many hobbies, but I wish that he would take an interest in doing something besides watching TV, the doctors don't take me seriously when I say that he won't do anything, I think that they don't want to hear it either. (I feel like a ghost about this issue). Incidentally, he was somewhat like that before the stroke and always seemed to enjoy being sick. He used to look at people in wheelchairs and say somewhat longingly that that would be him someday.

Since he can't do much I have to do everything for us, which I don't mind, but would like just a little appreciation. Sometimes I feel angry at the situation. He is not bad enough to go to a home and no one else would take him. How can I handle him, or get him to be interested in something? He is on Celexa for depression and he says that he is not depressed, in fact he acts pretty normal at doctors and around others. What to do? I can't leave him long enough to have a job or go to school, since he doesn't think things through sometimes, so could be potentially dangerous to himself, also he falls occasionally and I have to help him up.


Expert Answers

Mikol Davis, PhD has worked in community hospitals with geriatric patients suffering from dementia, depression, and other psychiatric problems. He has a doctorate in Psychology from the University of San Francisco and has been in private practice in Marin County, California. Davis co-founded AgingParents.com with his wife, Carolyn Rosenblatt.

Dear Caring Member, Unfortunately severe personality changes after a stroke is very common. First off your intense sense of lack of appreciation is so important. Let's first address the need to better take care of yourself. You need all the support you can get whether from community or online. Please look into National Family Caregiver Alliance.

Next your husband sounds quite depressed based on his anger not sadness. Perhaps he hates being so dependent NOT You. A consultation with a GeroPsychiatrist to re-think his medications is in order. New medication combinations can be more effective for depression. I would urge you to consider adult day health services at least weekly to give you a break. This could help him slot more than watching TV. Overall get some support for yourself.


Community Answers

Wugo answered...

Anon. Caregiver, If a marriage lasts, it is almost inevitable that one partner becomes the main support for the disabled other. After a time fatigue and stress become almost unbearable for the caregiver. I suspect you have reached that point by now. My wife's illness lasted about 18 months before she died and it took two years for me to recover from the fatigue. I have never regretted the effort because she died happily while we were more in love than ever. I hope you are as fortunate as I and that you will be able to recall your behavior at this time without feelings of regret or guilt.


Sandpipar answered...

My husband was 57 when he had his stroke, he too has a changed personality, I try to tell the drs, specialists but I think because they never knew him before the stroke they don't realise just how different he is now. He struggles with day to day tasks, cannot run a household and gets confused particularly when he is tired, he hates me although over the last 5 years since the stroke I have cared for him and tried to include him all things, we do go on holiday but it is different, he does not like mixing with people so I have to try and keep away which makes me look really rude, on the outside my husband looks normal, he puts on a great front so most people that don't know him think he's ok. He would happily sit in front of the tv all day and eat, I have to stimulate him and find little jobs for him that I know he can manage. I have great trouble with him if we have company ( which is not too often these days), he seems to cope when visitors are here and they think he's ok but when they go he really takes it out on me, telling me I love to see him struggle (don't know where this comes from!). He is particularly bad when our children and grandchildren come to visit, when he thinks they are not looking he gives me evil looks, pushes past me, stands on my hands if i'm on the floor playing with the children, yesterday we had our year old grandaughter, he was roughly playing with her so I had to tell him to be careful, I got the most evil look and he through a large plastic toy at me with force, I shouted then broke down crying, he realised immediately that he had done wrong but it will be forgotten and he will do it again. Its really hard and just to let you know you are not alone, its nice for me to know its not only me and I hope it helps to know its not only you, I have never found anyone yet that have had this problem with their other half. My husband is on Citraprolam for depression, he does go to a day centre 3 days a week which gives me a break. ( I keep asking if maybe he needs a different anti depressant)


Periwinkle3 answered...

My fiance is 61 and experienced a stroke. This is new ground for me, he's only been home a week, but this is not the person I knew two weeks ago; the changes sneak up on you. Weird stuff like if the tv was on and Jerry Springer came on he used to say "Change that [profanity removed]!" Now he watches entiree episodes! Put 12 more new things across the board--and you get that something is just wrong. I don't see this relationship lasting. His rudeness is hard to take. He was a much kinder person. I have even had to remind him to say please or thank you. I'm carrying the full load with the house. Good luck to everyone dealing with the loss of the person you used to know and lovr. You have my sympathy and understanding.


A fellow caregiver answered...

I was married to my husband for about 10 years before his stork. We had two small children ages 2 and 4. After his stroke he became extremely abusive, hitting and throwing things at me and the children. We were blessed with one more child about 2 years after his stoke. Thing just kept getting worse and more volient. He knew I wouldn't protect myself and hurt him back. All others saw was a sick man. Ten years later I decided enough was enough. I finally left him. No one should be abused.


A fellow caregiver answered...

Anon, Diagnosed with dysthymia, Borderline Personality Disorder and Anxiety Disorder(childhood; not necessarily important, possibly germane); completed career in the USAF. TIA November '14(only physical manifestations; speech and drooping eyelid); did not respect the warning. "Earthuquake", March '15 - complete terror, confusion... and an experience in the Neurology Department that would qualify for a Stephen King horror film... luckily, minimal physical manifestations (fooled me into believing that I was progressing far quicker than my wife saw... Very common, for the spouse); Blunt: I feel that you may be "enabling"; please don't be offended... I think I understand your desire to comfort... I would strongly recommend to take time to develop "carrot on a stick" method/strategy to draw him away from the TV (I call it the "idiot box"... my typical twisted sarcastic style... sorry ;-)... possibly enlist friends to develop a strategy to draw him out (example: if he was good at fixing things... break something that he can be responsible to repair be sneaky/subtle... even enlist a specialist to let you know the right way to break it... if he feels needed/wanted/responsible for something, it may "awaken" something good in him)... or enlist a friend/acquaintance for someone that needs his help ("subtlety" is the name of the game... if he "reads through it", it can backfire) "strategy" and "tactic" may seem to be negative words; they are sometimes need in life... you may also be saving his life... along with yours: strength through conditioning is the only way to improve your capability to effectively help others; win-win: be good to yourself to be good for him. good luck (I am not a blind "stiff upper lip" type). ...coming from "the other side"


Taznoah answered...

My husband had a stroke at 44. He looks fine on the outside but now has post stroke dementia or vascular dementia. His personality has changed and sometimes he is nice and others he is very angry. He will cuss me out or throw a tantrum when told to do things in the house. I am 41 and everything has fallen on my shoulders. He is not the same and sometimes I feel so lonely and exhausted. He will forget the fights, events that we share with family, and everyday we start over. It does take a toll on me and I pray for strength and patience everyday. I am glad I found others who can relate to me and my situation because sometimes I think people don't believe what I am living with daily.


Popper answered...

After stroke, suffered from severe personality changes. NO doctor would give credence to this, including psychologists.. After visiting the 3rd neurologist, he told me about 'nubexta', which after reading patient reviews, seems to be a wonder medication for this problem. ( why are we ignored by those who are supposed to be caring for us?? ) Unfortunately, it interacts with a couple drugs I'm taking, and not an option to change those. But, this may be some hope for those of you that are dealing with this challenge ( either self or caregiver.) Good luck to all of you!!!