Stroke: Problems With Ignoring the Affected Side

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Topic Overview

Some people who have had a stroke ignore or are not aware of one side of their body. This can happen when the stroke damages one side of the brain.

Caregivers may notice signs that the person is ignoring, or neglecting, the affected side, such as:

  • Mentioning or responding to stimulation only on the unaffected side of the body.
  • Using only the unaffected arm or leg.
  • Looking only to the environment on the unaffected side.
  • Noticing only someone who speaks or approaches from the unaffected side of the body.
  • Responding to only half of the objects he or she would normally see, such as eating from just one side of the plate.
  • Not recognizing the affected arm and leg as belonging to his or her body and thinking that they belong to someone else.
  • Thinking that objects on the affected side are closer or farther away than they really are. The person may bump into furniture or have trouble eating or dressing.

Your doctor or stroke rehab team might give you tips for how to help someone who neglects his or her affected side. These tips may include:

  • When you are working with the person's affected side, reduce distractions on the unaffected side. Distractions may include moving objects or bright lights close to the person. So, for example, make sure there are no moving objects or bright lights close to the person on his or her unaffected side.
  • Place objects that are needed most often on the person's unaffected side. Encourage use of the affected side by placing some objects (such as the telephone, reading glasses, or a glass of water) on that side, prompting the person to also use the affected side.
  • Remind the person to pay attention to the affected side. Sometimes, attaching a small bell or bright ribbon to the affected arm or leg may act as a reminder.
  • Point out landmarks on the person's right and left sides when going places. Remember that the person may look at only one side of the environment, so use examples that get the person to look to both sides. For example, you might say, "Looking out the window over to your right I see that it looks like a rainy day today." Or you might say, "We are driving by our church over here on the left."
  • Give frequent cues to help orient the person to the environment. For example, you might say, "It is 3 o'clock in the afternoon on March 21. It is Wednesday, and we are at the doctor's office. I am your son, and we have been here only a short while."

Related Information

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Winstein CJ, et al. (2016). Guidelines for adult stroke rehabilitation and recovery: A guideline for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke, published online May 4, 2016. DOI: 10.1161/STR.0000000000000098. Accessed June 3, 2016.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRichard D. Zorowitz, MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Current as ofAugust 10, 2016