STROKE RECOVERY AND THE CAREGIVER.
When a loved one has a stroke, you may find yourself in uncharted territory. Here, we offer some advice from our experience, to help you navigate life after a stroke, from rehabilitation to lifestyle changes.
Caring for a friend or family member who’s had a stroke can be a hefty challenge. You are now confronted with a role you’ve likely never had before.
The importance of the CAREGIVER is sometimes overlooked when it comes to Stroke Recovery. So this Blog, is dedicated to them.
Here are 6 Tips for the Caregiver:
Become Stroke Smart - After a stroke, you’ll enter a new world with unfamiliar words, people and routines. So it’s easy to understand why lack of knowledge is one of the biggest initial hurdles you’ll face. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn — talk with the patient’s healthcare team every chance you get and attend support groups. More often then not, we must learn about Stroke and Stroke Recovery, because we are forced to. Nobody plans on having a Stroke, or know that their partner, father, mother or other family member is going to have a Stroke. So when asking questions, there is no such thing as a stupid question. If you are in a group setting, more likely then not, the reason you have to ask a question, is because most people are afraid to, or think that everyone else already know the answer, and they will look silly or stupid. The only way to become Stroke Smart, is to ask all the questions.
2. Get to Know the Team - Become familiar with the doctors and nurses caring for your loved one. This team will likely be headed up by a neurologist, who can guide you through the recovery process. Don’t be shy about asking questions!
3. Advocate for Rehab - One of the most important parts of recovering from a stroke is rehabilitation, which can help your loved one regain independence. Work with the doctor to ensure that rehab is part of the recovery plan after being discharged from the hospital. Then show your loved one support by attending a few therapy sessions with them. Encourage the practice of new skills, but try not to be overbearing or intrusive — allow the person to learn and do things for themselves. Many times the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Many Medical Professionals, who experience all the good, bad and ugly stories on a daily basis, are very careful when talking to the family of Stroke Survivor, and especially the Caregiver. They give the medical facts, based on what they know, or what they perceive as being reality. Don't be afraid to ask for a second opinion. Far to often, even now in 2021, I hear clients talk about how their doctor told them that Stroke Recovery is a year, or in other words, what you get back in the first year following a Stroke, is what you get back.
Before I go any further, THAT IS FALSE!
4. Write It All Down - As the caregiver, you’ll likely be tasked with coordinating healthcare needs, such as medications and rehab appointments. Writing it all down can help you stay organized. Plus, keeping a notebook on hand (or using an app on your phone) makes it easy to jot down questions as they come up, as well as take notes during appointments.
5. Create a Safe Place - Coming home from the hospital after a stroke can be a scary time for both you and the patient. Ask your care team what you can do to make your home safer. You may need to move the bedroom to a lower level to avoid stairs, remove rugs or Death Mats, to prevent falls or install grab bars in the bathroom to help with stability.
6. Help Prevent Another Stroke - People who have already suffered a stroke are at higher risk for having another one, approximately 80% of Stroke Survivors will suffer another Stroke or Strokes, so be sure to encourage lifestyle changes that lower your loved one’s risk. Enjoy healthy, low-fat meals together, work exercise into your daily routines, and help the patient remember to take medications and keep doctor appointments. Reminders on your phone are a great way to keep track of everything.
It is also important that the Primary Caregiver take time for themselves, meet with friends outside of the home, go to a movie, go shopping or to just go for daily walks. A Caregiver's job never ends, and it is exhausting, so burnout is a definite possibility. If you know a Primary Caregiver, it may be a good idea to ask if there is something you can do to help. If you are a Primary Caregiver, don't be afraid to ask for help. Most communities have support groups, or Agencies, that offer time during the week, where they will send a Registered PSW, to help with activities around the house, or stay with your love one, so that you can leave the home. This service is normally a FREE service, with no direct cost to you.
In my opinion, as a STROKE SURVIVOR, and knowing what I know first hand, it is much harder or tougher to be the CAREGIVER, then it is to be the STROKE SURVIVOR.
Personally, I would not trade places.