If you are bringing a loved one home who has experienced a stroke, be prepared for a lot of changes. While you will need to learn how best to care for the stroke patient, you will also have to learn how to care for yourself, because if you burn out, physically or emotionally, you will be of little help to the ones you love. Follow a few steps to help you prepare to care for your loved one most effectively.
Preparation is key to successfully caring for your loved one who has experienced a stroke. Start by becoming well-educated on the subject. Ask questions of the medical team, both doctors and therapists, about stroke and about your loved one’s particular stroke. Ask about limitations as well as mood and behavior changes you can expect.
Attend rehab sessions to know what the therapists are doing and to learn how to do it at home. Many therapies will require a lot of repetition at home with the help and guidance of a caregiver. Therapists are also excellent sources of information about what to expect and how best to help in recovery.
Meet with the social worker or case manager for your loved one. This person can help you find local and governmental resources to offer elder care services, counseling, and financial help. Be sure to contact your insurance company and any state or federal agencies that may help with your financial needs.
Once you have a clear sense of what the stroke patient will need, look realistically at the situation and determine what you can do yourself and where you will need help. For instance, maybe you can provide meals, medication management, and help with at-home therapy practice, but you will need someone to help with bathing, dressing, or lifting your loved one. Types of services that can help include:
- Cleaning service
- Home health aide
- Transportation service
- Meal delivery service
- Adult daycare
- Counseling – for yourself or your loved one
Tap into family, friends, and the resources offered by the case manager to set up your support team. The U.S. Administration on Aging offers an eldercare locator through their Administration for Community Living. The website is eldercare.acl.gov. Be careful when searching the internet for elder care, because there are scammers who specialize in scamming the elderly.
Make whatever home modifications the therapists or doctors recommend. You could request a home visit to get an expert’s opinion on any potentially dangerous situations that you might not see. You may also request that your loved one be brought for a “test run” visit with a nurse or therapist, so the stroke patient can see how he or she will be able to maneuver in the home. This can relieve some anxiety about how different things will be, hopefully reassuring the patient that “there is no place like home” and all will be well.
The American Stroke Association offers a very helpful Caregiver Guide to Stroke, which goes over the effects of a stroke, medical management, legal and financial help resources, and emotional support. Be sure to review this very helpful guide.
If you have thoroughly prepared yourself, you should be able to implement the plan and successfully support your loved one in recovery. A few things to remember:
- Do with, not for. As hard as it is to watch a loved one suffer, he or she needs to work to relearn how to do things. This effort engages the neuroplasticity of the brain, rebuilding the injured areas. Encourage your loved one with this fact whenever he or she may feel discouraged.
- Schedule the day, and show your loved one in a manner in which he or she can understand. For instance, if the stroke has taken away the ability to read, use pictures to list out the activities of the day. Plan time for eating, exercise, therapy practice, resting, and leisure activities.
- Organize the medications. Containers with days of the week and times of the day are particularly helpful, but be sure to have it all written down so other people will know the schedule, as well.
- Watch for signs of depression, which can occur in 30-50% of stroke patients. Discuss with the stroke management team what to look for and what to do if you see any signs.
- Watch for deterioration of physical health, which may indicate a problem with medication or a second stroke onset. Unfortunately, 25% of strokes are second strokes. Neuralert has created a non-invasive, wristband technology that can recognize possible signs of a stroke within minutes, sending a message to designated people – caregivers and health team – to get immediate help. Quick treatment can lessen or even prevent long-term harm from a stroke.
- Arrange for a regular change of pace, such as outings or trips to the adult day care. This can be rejuvenating for both of you and can help your loved one feel like part of the world again.
- Encourage the stroke victim when improvement in condition slows, as it always does. Keep in mind that studies have shown that consistent therapy, even two years later, shows continued improvement in health. “Slow and steady wins the race!”
Maintain your equilibrium
Most caregivers continue their former roles in the family while adding the significant burden of full-time caregiver to an injured person. This is a recipe for overload if you don’t plan for your own health as well as that of your loved one.
First, be sure to eat a healthy diet, exercise, and maintain good sleep habits. These are essential for a healthy life, but especially when caring for another person.
Learn how to avoid injury, especially from bending or lifting. A physical therapist can teach you the proper way to lift or bend to protect your spine and limbs. If you can’t do it safely, arrange for home health aides or family members to help.
Protect your emotional health by giving yourself frequent breaks, engaging in religious or spiritual functions that fuel you spiritually, participating in a hobby or other relaxing activity, and spending time with family and friends without the need to provide care.
Learn how to ask for help and to say “yes” when it is offered. You do not have to do this alone. Consider joining a support group or talking to a counselor to help you maintain a positive attitude.
Taking care of yourself will help you take care of your loved one. Adding Neuralert to the stroke recovery plan will also give you and the medical team peace of mind that you will receive a warning should another stroke occur, allowing your loved one to get help right away. Ask the medical team about adding Neuralert’s stroke detection wristbands to your loved one’s stroke recovery program.