If you're caring for a loved one following a stroke, you may have questions about assessing their needs and helping them adjust to life in the months and years ahead. Stroke recovery can be a challenging process for both of you, but with the right attitude and assistance, it's very possible to have a fulfilling life after a stroke.
In the United States, over 34 million people are caregivers to someone with a disability or illness, according to the CDC. As a caregiver, knowledge is your most valuable weapon. You should get as much information as possible about strokes, stroke recovery, and caregiving -- the more you know, the more confident and capable you'll be with rendering assistance and care. Furthermore, you should take advantage of learning opportunities from your loved one's health care team about the condition, prognosis, and stroke recovery process.
Assessing Your Loved One's Needs
Caregivers are often unaware of the responsibilities that come along with caring for someone who has a stroke. Depending on the severity of the stroke, caregivers may need to tend to the following:
- Providing daily personal care, such as bathing, dressing, and meal preparation.
- Coordinating health care needs.
- Managing medications, insurance, and finances.
Consult with your loved one's health care team to determine which tasks you can do and where additional assistance may be needed.
One essential component of stroke recovery is rehabilitation, which addresses common physical, mental, and emotional difficulties. According to the National Institutes of Health, stroke can cause weakness, numbness, or paralysis in certain body parts; problems with thinking, learning, judgment, and memory; and difficulty understanding or forming speech and expressing emotions. In some cases, individuals may also experience vision problems.
Studies show that the brain can compensate for lost function after trauma, so rehabilitation should begin soon after a stroke has occurred, according to The Dana Foundation. A stroke rehabilitation team generally consists of doctors; nurses; physical, occupational, and speech-language therapists; and mental health professionals. All these people will work with stroke survivors to decrease the chance of disability and assist them in relearning everyday skills. The length of rehabilitation depends on the severity of the stroke.
Many products are available for individuals recovering from a stroke. Whether your loved one needs temporary or ongoing assistive devices, these tools can make life after a stroke safer and more comfortable.
For example, transfer boards, handrails, and shower chairs can decrease fall risks in the bathroom. Your loved one's rehabilitation team can assist you in finding the correct devices for their unique needs.
Getting Outside Help
Occasionally, you may feel overwhelmed with your caregiver duties. Various services, such as respite care and personal care assistance, are available to assist you. These services allow you to take time out from your caregiving duties while your loved one is cared for at home.
Take Care of Yourself
Being a caregiver for a stroke survivor can be both challenging and rewarding. As a caregiver, it's common to feel anxiety, guilt, depression, stress, and resentment toward your loved one's condition and your new role. Acknowledge your significance and importance in the role you have taken, but remember to take care of your own physical and emotional needs, as well. Exercising, eating a healthy diet, and participating in enjoyable and social activities are wonderful ways to reduce stress and remain healthy.
Additionally, support groups, networks, and a good support system of other caregivers, friends, and family can help you adjust to your new role. Talking with other caregivers can help you feel less isolated and give you opportunities to receive caregiver tips, gain knowledge, and share resources.