Personal Care for Stroke Survivors

Updated:Nov 23,2016

After a stroke, bathing and dressing yourself can be a major step in recovery. First, focus on what you can do. Which movements are easiest? These tips will help you get started. Use a weak hand or leg as much as you can. Daily use will make it stronger and helps to retrain the affected side.

Hair Grooming

  • Have an extension mirror mounted near a mirror in the bathroom or on a dresser. By using both mirrors together, you can see the back of your head.
  • Use a wall-mounted hair dryer or buy a wall mount for a hand-held dryer.
  • Use a curling brush to eliminate the need for rollers. Just plug it in for one or two minutes. Then roll your hair onto the brush and count to 30. Unwind and repeat.
  • To clean your hairbrush, hold it between your knees, and then pull a comb through it to get the hair out. When you’re done, soak and rinse the brush and comb.

Care of Teeth

Toothpaste tubes with flip tops are easiest to use. To apply toothpaste, you can:

  • Use your strong hand to squeeze it onto your tongue, and then pick up the toothbrush.
  • Hold the toothbrush in your teeth, and apply the toothpaste with your strong hand.
  • Hold the toothbrush between the thumb and forefinger of your weak hand, applying the toothpaste with the strong hand.

Special Cleaning Aids

  • To floss, try disposable flossing toothpicks or a floss threader.
  • To clean dentures, try using a suction brush or denture soak.
  • To help flush out debris from between teeth and gums, try using an oral irrigator.


Use an electric shaver if you have to shave with one hand. Or, if you prefer using blades, puff out your cheeks when you shave. Use a disposable razor so you don’t have to change blades.

To apply shaving cream, squeeze the cream onto the back of your weak hand or onto the edge of the sink. Then apply the cream with your strong hand.

To trim a mustache, use a single-edge razor. For safety, sit while doing this task.

To shave your legs, use an electric shaver. If you lie on a bed, you may be able to reach your lower legs more easily.

Nail Care

If your hand is clenched (in a claw-like manner) as a result of a stroke, keep your fingernails short and smooth.

  • Special nail clippers designed to be used with only one hand are available. Also, depending on the strength in your affected hand, you might want to try foot-operated clippers. 
  • To file fingernails, tape a nail file to a table and run your fingers over it.
  • Cut and file toenails after soaking them in warm water. The water helps soften the nail. If you have a reclining chair, put your feet up on the extension when you clip your toenails.

Overcoming Neglect — How Caregivers and Family Can Help

If the survivor (especially one with right-brain stroke) has lost awareness on one side of the body, find ways to gently remind him or her of the neglected side (usually the left side). You might say, “Let’s brush your hair.” Then, taking hold of the survivor’s neglected hand, gently move it to the brush on the counter. When you touch the survivor’s hand like this, his or her head and eyes will naturally move in the direction of the touch.

Adapted from Living With Disability After Stroke: A Stroke Connection Special Edition brochure

Additional tips for daily activities:

This content was last reviewed on 03/18/2013.

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