Tips for the Caregivers of Stroke Victims
An important part of the caregiver’s role is helping the stroke survivor rebuild his or her self-esteem. Caregivers can help by:
- Emphasizing the ways in which the stroke survivor can regain his or her independence through rehabilitation therapy.
- Including the stroke survivor in your conversations. Talk with the stroke survivor, not about him or her.
- Keep the stroke survivor informed about family activities.
- Seek his or her opinion and advice.
- Give plenty of affection, understanding and respect.
- Don’t make constant comparisons to the way life was before. Focus on the present and the positive.
- Encourage the stroke survivor to enjoy what he or she can do, instead of regretting what can’t be done.
- Join an aphasia or stroke support group. This can help you and the survivor share feelings of anger, sadness and frustration with others who know exactly what you’re going through.
Taking care of yourself:
The physical and emotional changes in the stroke survivor can mean major adjustments in the caregiver’s day-to-day life. Caregivers may sometimes feel burnt-out, frustrated, helpless, depressed, afraid and even angry. Such feelings are not bad they are normal and understandable. Here are some ideas other caregivers have used to help them deal with these feelings: Share your feelings with a close friend or another caregiver who can listen to your thoughts. Try to have at least one daily conversation about a topic that’s not related to stroke.
Do something you find relaxing, such as taking a walk, reading a book, yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates or listening to calming music. Keep up with current events and local news to broaden your outlook. Enlist the help of family, friends or community agencies. Don’t feel guilty if you
can’t be with the stroke survivor every minute. Take care of your physical health. Eat a healthy diet. Try to be physically active most days of the week. Get spiritual support. Talk with your clergy or spiritual advisor.
Taking a break
Being a caregiver will take a lot of your time and energy. But being a caregiver does not mean giving up your entire life. It is important to know when to take time off. Taking periodic breaks is essential for both you and the stroke survivor. You will be able to give better care when you are refreshed through outside contact and stimulation.
Here are some guidelines that can make it easier to get away:
- Plan well ahead. Discuss your plans with the survivor well before you leave. It can be upsetting for survivors to fi nd a routine is suddenly being changed.
- Find out what type of help or relief you need most. For example, you may fi nd you need household assistance to allow you to go for a walk most days or do outside gardening. If you are planning a longer trip, you may need to fi nd someone who can come in to care for the stroke survivor, or a nursing home where the stroke survivor can stay.
Don’t be afraid to ask neighbours or friends to help out occasionally. They may be very happy to help. In fact, they may not be offering to help because they think you always have everything under control. Try to be nearby during helpers’ first few visits. The helpers will need to learn the routine in your home and what you expect them to do. It is helpful if they know how to reach you if a problem arises. Do not worry that the stroke survivor will fall apart without you. In fact, try to promote independence for the survivor. A break can refresh a stroke survivor, as well as the caregiver.
About half of all stroke survivors become depressed at some point during their recovery. Caregivers struggling with new responsibilities and roles are also at risk of becoming depressed. Depression is not a sign that you are weak or “not trying.” It is not something you can just “snap out of.” Check the warning signs of depression in thearticle "Depression After Stroke." If you have two or more of these symptoms for more than two weeks, contact your doctor or social worker. Depression can be treated and the sooner you are treated, the better the outcome.
Heart and Stroke Canada