May is National Stroke Awareness Month.
If you are caring for a family member who has had a stroke, and you are helping them recover in their home, we know firsthand the high levels of emotional and physical stress you both may experience without proper in-home care services.
Caregivers play a vital role in the post-stroke recovery process. The more aware caregivers are of available resources, programs, services, and self-care tips – for the stroke survivor and themselves – the more likely they will affect positive outcomes and keep stress at a minimum.
FirstLight Home Care has put together the following helpful tips for the family caregiver.
Ask questions. Recovering from a stroke will impact every individual differently. It is important to understand your loved one’s condition and to ask questions of the doctors in his or her care. Be aware of your loved one’s medications and side effects. Learn about post-stroke treatment plans, therapies, necessary home modifications, and other resources, such as home care assistance, that may help with your in-home caregiving. Ask a doctor, nurse or therapist to answer your questions about what to expect so that you can be prepared.
Find a stroke support group. It is important that the family caregiver doesn’t feel completely alone in their new in-home caregiving journey. Find a support group in your area to create social opportunities outside of your in-home caregiving duties and to become a sounding board for you when making difficult decisions and locating local resources. Members of these support groups know what you’re going through and can be helpful on many levels. Start or find a support group in your area.
As change occurs, understand your options for help. A change in abilities and/or skills can result in a change in services during stroke recovery. Medicare coverage for rehabilitation therapies may be available if your loved one’s physical function has changed. Any improvement or decline in motor skills, speech or self-care since the last time your loved one was in therapy may mean eligibility changes in services. Consult with your loved one’s healthcare provider, case manager, social worker or insurance company to find out how much and how long insurance (private or government-supported) will cover medical and rehabilitation services in and out of the hospital and to determine out-of-pocket expenses. This can vary from one case to another.
Take care of yourself. Take a break from in-home caregiving by asking another family member, friend or neighbor to help while you take time for yourself to exercise, rest and handle your own personal needs. If there isn’t anyone who can step in while you take much-needed (and well-deserved) time for respite care, consider hiring a professional caregiver.
Monitor emotions. Stop depression before it hinders your loved one’s recovery and your in-home caregiving ability. Post-stroke sadness and depression are common, with as many as 30 to 50 percent of stroke survivors experiencing depression during any phase of recovery (Source: National Stroke Association).
Taking care of the physical and emotional needs of others can be stressful and depression can occur with caregivers too. It can take a toll on a caregiver’s ability to care for their loved one, especially when the caregiver feels unhappy or hopeless and then their own needs are put on the back burner. Consult a healthcare professional to develop a plan of action at the first signs of depression.
Be patient. Be kind. The stroke survivor and the family caregiver need to be patient with and kind to each other during stroke recovery. Take things one day at a time. The road to recovery takes time, and everyone involved may often feel frustrated. Do not take your frustrations out on each other or on other people. Talk with a family member, friend, professional or support group about your feelings. Try not to compare life now to how it was before your loved one suffered the stroke.
We understand how stressful family caregiving can be, especially when caring for those who have experienced a stroke. We hope these tips will help you learn to manage the demands while finding time for your own personal care.
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