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RESCUE Stroke Caregiving

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Apathy is a lack of motivation or enthusiasm. This is different from being tired or depressed. A stroke survivor who has apathy shows little emotion or feeling. The survivor may withdraw from friends and family. They may seem passive or indifferent to life.

What Do You Need to Know?

Stroke survivors with apathy often lose interest in daily activities. They may show lack of concern for personal care. They may have trouble beginning and finishing tasks. You may think that your loved one is lazy or uncaring. Your loved one does not act this way on purpose. Apathy is the result of the stroke injury.

Why Is It Important to Get Help?

Apathy is one of the most difficult behaviors to handle. You may be stressed by your loved one’s need for constant help. Your loved one may not express thanks for your care. Talk with your healthcare team. Some medicines are helpful. Neuropsychologists, occupational therapists and nurses can suggest ways to help your loved one. Think about joining a support group to talk with other caregivers. Learn more about stroke support groups.

What Treatments Should You Discuss with Your Healthcare Team?

Some medicines improve apathy. Your provider may prescribe a medicine that is used to treat depression. Medicines that stimulate the brain may be helpful. Drugs that treat dementia and Parkinson’s disease are other options. Speak to your healthcare team about ways to handle apathy.

What Are Ways You Can Motivate Your Loved One?

  • Prompt or cue your loved one to do activities. Be direct. Offer simple choices. Avoid asking your loved one if they want to do something. Simply state that it is time to do a task like take a bath. 
  • Keep a daily routine or schedule.
  • Find tasks that your loved one can do without help. Allow your loved one plenty of time to do tasks. 
  • Praise your loved one often. Show your support regardless of the quality of the activity. 

How Can You Get Your Loved One Interested in Activities?

  • Invite your loved one to take part in favorite activities you both enjoy. Talk about the past. Look at old photos.
  • Ask friends and family to visit.
  • Do things to increase your loved one’s cooperation. Make daily activities fun.  Use humor often.
  • Offer a reward like a favorite food for finishing a hard task.

Helpful Tips

Stay calm − Dealing with apathy is frustrating. Things will go more smoothly if you are relaxed.

Remind yourself that apathy is part of the disease − Your loved one is not trying to be difficult.

Try to change what you expect of your loved one − Remember that your loved one cares about you. They just have trouble showing love and feelings. 


  • Your loved one may seem lazy or uncaring. Keep in mind that your loved one’s behaviors are part of the disease. 
  • Frequently prompt or cue your loved one to begin and complete tasks.
  • Increase social activities. Talk about the past. Invite family and friends to visit.

Other Resources Collage of photos for the internet

Additional credible resources on this topic can be found here. Website pages may change or update, therefore if a link does not work, you may also try to type the information into your internet search bar. This Resource List will be updated frequently.


*Link Disclaimer: Links to information and Web sites outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs do not indicate an endorsement of products or services offered by the sites. In addition, these sites may have privacy and security policies that are inconsistent with those of VA.

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References: Landes, A.M., Sperry, S.D, Stauss, M.E., & Gledmacher, D.S. (2001). Apathy in Alzheimer’s disease.  Journal of American Geriatrics Society, 49(12), 1700-1707; Orr, W.B. (2004).  Apathy in the older adult: why you should care.  Geriatrics, 59(7), 34-36.

These materials were created for the project:

Web-Based Informational Materials for Caregivers of Veterans Post-Stroke

Project Number SDP 06-327 funded by VA HSR&D Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI)