Taking care of a stroke survivor can be exhausting. The loved one caring for a stroke patient has more stress than the caregiver of most other injuries or illnesses. This is because the stroke patient often experiences cognitive issues, at least in the beginning. Not only does this make communication difficult, but it can cause extra frustration, anger, or depression for the patient who is struggling to be understood, as well as for the loved one who sees the patient suffering but cannot help. Add to this the pain of seeing your spouse, parent, or other loved one limited and remembering what he or she was once like, and the emotional toll caused by caring for a stroke victim can be very high indeed.
It is not just your emotions that are being drained, however. Your physical energy is also being sapped because the stroke patient probably needs a lot of physical help to move, care for personal hygiene, and eat. It is common for caregivers to help their loved ones eat and forget to eat much themselves, or just nibble while on their feet. Sleep habits are also often disrupted, making the caregiver less rested and less able to perform at optimal levels physically, mentally, and emotionally to provide the best care.
Take care of yourself first
It is not selfish to put your own physical, mental, and emotional health before that of the stroke patient. If you are not well, you cannot help your loved one. People often feel guilty when they take time for themselves, but by caring for yourself, you are caring for the patient, as well.
Just as airplane passengers are instructed to put on their own oxygen mask before putting the mask on their child – because if the parent passes out, the child will be helpless – so also, you need to put on your own metaphorical oxygen mask first when caring for a stroke patient. Here are a few suggestions to make sure you are refreshed and strong in body, mind, and spirit to care for your loved one in his or her time of need.
- Educate yourself on the likely limitations and behaviors of people who have the type and degree of stroke your loved one has. This way, you will know what to expect and how to respond.
- Eat well and get exercise. If necessary, write down what you eat every time you eat so you can clearly see whether or not you’re getting enough and eating well.
- Schedule a rotation of caregivers. This may include other family members, a caregiver service, a nurse, or a local center for adult care. You should not be performing all caregiving, 24/7, 365.
- Schedule time for self-care every day, away from the stroke patient. That may mean taking a walk, soaking in the tub, reading a book, or engaging in a hobby.
- Get your sleep. Do not neglect this critical component of overall health. It is during sleep that our bodies and minds repair themselves.
- Journal your thoughts. Join a support group, if you need other caregivers to talk to or bounce things off of.
- Religious practice brings many people peace and a sense of meaning. Meditation and breathing exercises or relaxation techniques can also help you destress.
In a nutshell, don’t take all the burden upon yourself, and exercise self-care. One way you can decrease your stress is to use a stroke-detection monitor to alert you and healthcare professionals at the earliest signs of another stroke. Unfortunately, 25% of all strokes are repeat strokes, so it’s important to have an early warning system.
Neuralert’s stroke detection wristbands look like smartwatches and are driven by a powerful AI algorithm that accurately detects most strokes within minutes and sends an alert to the chosen caregivers or medical personnel to check for a stroke. With a near-zero false alarm rate, you will know right away if your loved one needs immediate medical attention. Ask your doctor about the Neuralert stroke detection system.