Handling Difficulties With Stroke Victims
After a stroke occurs, living with the consequences can provide its obstacles. Despite times of hardship, it is imperative that you remain level-headed and patient with your loved one. During difficult times, try to remember the following:
- Behavior and mood changes are common. Not only has the brain been affected, the physical and emotional losses from a stroke may be weighing on your loved one’s mind. Whether these changes are temporary or permanent, he or she may experience a range of strong emotions.
They may lash out at you or feel frustrated. Do not tell them how to feel. Because it is difficult to understand how they really feel, it is better to just listen and offer your support, patience and love.
- Get treatment for depression. Not only is it difficult for stroke survivors to suffer, but it is also difficult for you to watch them suffer. Seeing your loved one in such a vulnerable state with a serious health problem can be traumatic and scary. You both might be grieving for former abilities, as well as over the time and health that have been lost.
Look for signs of depression, as stroke survivors are at an increased risk. Depression puts a damper on their physical recovery and is detrimental for both emotional and mental health. Seek treatment immediately if you see signs of depression.
- Communication requires intense focus. If you are having trouble communicating with your loved one, you are not alone. Stroke survivors often have trouble understanding, following trains of thought or remembering things.
Be patient with your loved and employ some useful communication strategies. Maintain eye contact with the person to get his or her attention and encourage the person to focus on the conversation. If there is music or a television on, turn the device off or turn down the volume so the person can tune out other sights and sounds in the room.
- Be patient when communicating or take a break. Beyond reducing or eliminating distractions, how you communicate is also crucial. Speak clearly and express one idea at a time, in simple terms, repeating things if necessary. If your loved one is not able to speak, hand gestures can be helpful. Ask the person to point to what he or she needs.
At times when you are unable to communicate calmly and effectively or feel yourself getting frustrated, take a break. It is better to step into another room and cool off than to lash out in anger and say something you regret later.
- Set realistic goals and encourage progress. Sometimes it is difficult to find a balance as you push your loved one to stretch his or her self-care abilities. While you want your loved one to do as much routine self-care as possible, he or she may grow frustrated throughout the recovery and therapy process.
It may seem like the person cannot do much with only one good arm, but you may be surprised to see how much can be done even with limits. Do not doubt the person’s abilities. An occupational therapist can help you understand realistic benchmarks for your loved one’s condition.
Each task that the person can do alone raises his or her confidence and pride. Finding the right level of push and pull might take time. Be patient with one another. Express your care to your loved one and your desire to help his or her recovery.
Learn About Resources to Help Care for a Person Who Has Had a Stroke
The following resources are available to people who have had a stroke so that they do not feel alone and can begin the process to recovery.
About Health Insurance
Look into the details of your loved one’s insurance coverage for services that may be available to you both. Health insurance or Medicare often covers most of the hospitalization and rehab expenses, but it may also cover other helpful devices, services or therapies.
Assess the financial situation and out-of-pocket costs. Remember that coverage might change as your loved one’s abilities improve. Insurance can be complex. Ask the hospital staff or case manager for information and do not be embarrassed to ask questions.
About Eldercare Services
Do not be afraid to seek help from outside sources. Professional care services can make a huge difference in your ability to care for your loved one and balance your other responsibilities. Having another family member or friend you can share duties with can also help ease the caregiving burden.
Adult daycare, Meals on Wheels and transportation services are all instrumental in giving you time to breathe and rest while still ensuring your loved one is being cared for. Find services in your area using the Eldercare Locator website or the United States Administration on Aging (USAA) website. The Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) also has a page with more information for caregivers.
About Physical Therapy
Most stroke survivors benefit from rehabilitation and occupational therapy. Attending therapy sessions with your loved one lets you understand the recovery process and the person’s current abilities and limitations.
It is always helpful to know the proper form for physical exercises so you can encourage your loved one during their recovery. Be supportive, but do not do everything for your loved one. The more self-reliant the person becomes, the more confident the person becomes.
Learn Caregiver Self-Care Strategies
Taking care of yourself during this time is equally as important as caring for your loved one. Remember you cannot do it all. No one is a perfect caregiver all the time. Practice self-compassion instead of feeling guilty about shortcomings or mistakes.
Building skills and confidence comes with time and experience. Remember to practice these self-care strategies:
- Join a support group. Get involved in a support group where you can learn from others in a similar situation and share your experience as well. Ask about support groups at the hospital or do an online search for groups near you. It is important to engage with others and avoid isolation.
- Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Do not be afraid to ask for help and — when someone offers help —learn to say, “Yes.” Keep a list of things that need to be done so you can delegate responsibilities in tangible ways, whether it is grocery shopping or stopping by for a visit.
- Take opportunities to wind down. If you want to provide good care to your loved one, you also have to care for yourself and accept help when you need it. Whether the help is from friends, family or professionals, use the time away to recharge your batteries and enjoy yourself. Take a bath, watch a good movie or go on a walk. Don’t neglect your physical health.
- Allow yourself room to feel. Frustration, anger and stress are common, but you don’t need to suffer alone or in silence. Find a healthy outlet for your emotions, whether it be with a therapist, support group or a new hobby. Sharing your feelings with someone you can trust helps you move on and not dwell on negative emotions.
- Focus on the positive. Laughter and humor are a great medicine for difficult times. Remember, the caregiver experience can be enriching and rewarding. Each day, find something to be grateful for and discover how often the positive moments outweigh the difficult ones. The ability to provide care for your loved one is a blessing in itself.