After a stroke, survivors often rely heavily on their family members for care. The focus during recovery is also typically and understandably centered around the patient. It takes a lot of work for a person to regain functioning and adapt to more permanent changes. While this focus is necessary for the health and well being of the person who experienced the stroke, it can leave the caregiver feeling challenged, unsupported and alone.
Stroke Recovery and Caregiver Stress
The truth is, being a caregiver for a person who has had a stroke is physically and emotionally challenging. Stroke recovery can take months or more. The person that you love might suddenly and dramatically change. You not only need to learn how to help them with certain tasks but adapt to their changes in mood and personality too. You might also worry about your loved one having another stroke or their ability to fully recover. Certainly, you want to provide the best care possible and help them to remain comfortably at home. However, it’s sometimes difficult to minimize feelings of insecurity. It’s also easy to forget that you need to take care of yourself and recognize your vulnerability to declining health and caregiver burnout too.
As the caregiver for a stroke survivor, it’s important to first recognize all of the obstacles you must face. There’s really no escaping them, but there are steps you can take to reduce physical and emotional stress. Salus Homecare of San Gabriel Valley offers these tips to help:
Changes in Personality After a Stroke
After a stroke, it is common for a person to experience changes in personality, behavior and mood. A person who was once very active may suddenly seem lazy or uninterested in completing even the simplest daily activities. A previously happy and easy going loved one can become agitated, moody, stubborn or combative. Depression and pain are sometimes at the root of these changes, so consult with your loved one’s doctor to see if medications or therapy might help. Separate your loved one from these behaviors, but also make sure you are taking care of yourself. Take breaks, use redirection and ask for help.
Accepting the New Normal
Accepting a new normal is difficult, but your loved one needs you to understand and appreciate the person they are today. Acknowledge the things they can do and the accomplishments they make every day, even if they seem small or insignificant. A stroke survivor who has difficulty tying their shoes but once again can pull on their pants deserves some recognition, and your acknowledgement of this achievement can boost their morale and self-esteem.
One of the main difference between family caregivers and professional caregivers is that professional caregivers have found a way to avoid grieving the loss of who their patient used to be. Instead, they love and respect them for who they are today. If you’re unable to immediately do the same on your own, you and your loved one might find comfort in hiring an in-home caregiver who feels more confident in immediately accepting this new normal and helping you to find your inner strength to do the same.
Stroke Caregiver Support Groups
After your loved one survives a stroke, you might find plenty of friends and family who are eager to offer their advice or make suggestions. They’re worried and want you to take care of yourself. This support is often helpful, but it can’t replace understanding and reassurance from someone who has previously cared for a stroke survivor. You need these people in your life too. That’s the power of a great support group.
Joining a stroke caregiver support group can provide you with information, education and a few shoulders to lean on in your darkest hour. This is your safe space to express emotions, doubts and frustrations. You’ll also benefit from hearing other people’s stories, and it is often empowering to share your own story too.
Respite Care for Stroke Caregivers
Finally, avoid making your new role as a family caregiver your sole identity. You need some time to be yourself too. Respite care provides a welcome relief whether you need to take time away for work, relaxation, running errands or tending to your own medical needs. Even a few hours a week makes a huge difference.
Hire a professional homecare worker to stay with your loved one at home while you step away. This will allow you to go to lunch with a friend or finish that important work project without worrying about your loved one’s safety or care. Respite care has the added bonus of providing your loved one with opportunities to develop a relationship with and socialize with another person. This can boost their mood, improve their outlook and enhance the stroke recovery experience.
When caring for a loved one who has had a stroke, self-care is NOT selfish. In fact, it’s necessary. Pay attention to your mental and physical health. Remain honest about what you can and cannot do. Consider the value of professional support. Salus Homecare of San Gabriel Valley is always here to help. Call us, and let’s schedule a time to talk about your needs, your goals and the ways in which we can help make the stroke recovery process a little easier.