Caring for a person after stroke can be very difficult. Stroke often occurs suddenly. Within a few
seconds, your whole world can change.
- The speed and amount of recovery are unknown.
questions arise about the future when dealing with the changes of the stroke, for both the survivor
and their loved ones.
- Stroke can present many problems, which span physical, emotional and
- A survivor may be physically and cognitively impaired, creating a challenge for
the person providing care.
The term “caregiver stress” is used to show that caring for a loved one after a stroke is physically
and emotionally difficult. It can cause all types of problems for the caregiver, depending on the
type of relationship you have with your family members, such as parents or a spouse.
questions may come to mind when you are giving care: Can I really do this? Am I doing enough
(too much)? Can I physically handle this? How will I ever learn all of the care tasks? Will I be able
to take care of myself too?
This last question is very important because if you don’t take care of yourself, you will be
unable to care for your family member.
Meeting Your Needs
Meeting your needs and this person’s needs is tricky, yet
important. When the scales tip and your stress gets to be too much, you might go through many
negative emotions. Stressed caregivers feel anger, guilt, depression, anxiety and feelings of being
alone. They may also feel very tired.
It’s important to watch for the early signs so you can take
steps to prevent the stress from getting worse. Many times, caregivers wait too long before they
will admit to their own exhaustion and then it’s much harder to find ways to help.
Watch for some of these signs of caregiver stress:
- Problems with sleep or eating patterns
- Moodiness and irritability
- Increased use of medications or alcohol to “relax”
- Flare up of your own medical problems or a new illness
- Insensitive handling of the person being cared for
When ignored, caregiver stress can lead to abuse and neglect or the need for nursing home
placement of your family member.
What can you do if you find some of these signs in your daily life? No easy answers exist, but sometimes even small things can help. Here are a few tips to follow:
Become comfortable asking for help.
Throw out those old beliefs that asking others for
a favor is a sign of weakness or that others should know when and how to help.
Keep communication open and clear between you and your family member.
It’s important to remember to allow the person with the stroke to make decisions and do things
Remember your own needs must come first sometimes.
Even though it’s your family
member who is surviving the stroke, this person’s needs cannot always come first. Remember
you can provide care for the person only as well as you take care of yourself.
Look for sources of support.
Support from others is very important whether it comes in the
form of physical help with your family member, someone to help you get away for a while or
someone to just listen to you. Often, other family members are very helpful, but if they aren’t,
friends and neighbors are sometimes willing to help.
Look for time to rest, have fun and exercise.
Time away doing something different is
important to your personal well-being. This should happen regularly in small ways, like a phone
call to a friend, a relaxing bath or a walk on a nice day. Occasionally, a big treat is needed,
like a night out with friends or even a vacation for you with someone else taking over caregiving
Set limits on unnecessary care.
Sometimes a stroke can make your family member
impatient and demanding. It is easy to give in to demands to avoid fights. It’s much harder, but
you should learn to say “no” or “not now” when you know the request is unnecessary or the
need is not immediate.
Support groups for caregivers are a good place to find information and emotional help. However,
you may feel more comfortable asking a minister, rabbi or priest for spiritual support. Professional
counseling is another way to get help.
Sometimes, the support should come in the form of paying
someone to help care for your family member with a stroke, either hiring a personal attendant to
help at home or even placing the person in a nursing facility for a short time to give you a break.