A stroke is a brain injury that occurs when the brain's blood supply is interrupted or greatly reduced. The brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients. Brain cells begin dying within minutes.
Even the simplest tasks can seem overwhelming to many stroke survivors. They may some day fully recover, but not on their own. They need concerned and knowledgeable caregivers.
Here are 15 tips for caregivers as they help stroke patients recover:
1) Make safety a priority.
If the stroke patient's judgment and/or perception are worrisome, don’t leave them alone. Hide all poisonous substances or dangerous objects. Make sure stroke survivors wear an ID bracelet that has their name and all contact information.
2) Ask the doctor questions.
Confer with the stroke patient about questions they want asked before the appointment.
3) Learn about medications and their side effects.
Find out if your home needs to be modified to meet the needs of the stroke survivor.
4 ) Learn everything you can about insurance coverage.
Knowing what's available to your stroke patient, and at what cost, will make planning and caring for them easier. Protect yourself from unpleasant surprises, save yourself some sleepless nights. Become well-versed on what is covered and what isn't.
5) Be prepared for changes in behavior and mood.
Discomfort, medication and stress can cause depression or anger.
6) Halt depression.
Post-stroke depression is common and can significantly affect recovery.
7) Focus on capabilities not limitations.
Show encouragement for every achievement, whether large or small.
8) Encourage them to be active and independent.
Even in small amounts, such encouragement will help them regain their confidence and sense of self-reliance.
9) Watch for motion problems.
Get help from a physical or occupational therapist if the survivor has any dizziness or falls, even a little. Watch for difficulty moving around in daily life. Be alert to the inability to walk six minutes without rest. Be aware of the inability to participate in recreational activities or outings.
10) Be assertive not aggressive.
How you communicate with your stroke surviver can make all the difference. Assertiveness will be better received and cause less friction than aggressiveness.
11) Ask for help.
Use the resource of support groups. You are not alone as a caregiver.
12) Know your rights.
Caregivers have rights to access medical and rehabilitation records, medical record copies including notes and any X-rays.
13) Get creative with communication.
Don't hesitate to try different things. One caregiver used labels and pictures to help his wife communicate about meals.
14) Take care of yourself.
Be cautious of caregiver burnout. Get plenty of sleep, eat right, exercise regularly, and pay attention to your own health.
15) Stay positive.
Try different stress management techniques if needed. Don't turn to alcohol or drugs to reduce stress.
It takes compassion, knowledge and hard work to help someone recover from stroke. Always try to remember that as your stroke survivor makes more strides to recovery, it will all be worth it.
"Diseases & Conditions." Cleveland Clinic. Web. 20 May 2015.
"Stroke." Family Caregiver Alliance. Web. 20 May 2015.
"Tips Stroke Patients Caregivers Should Know." - EmaxHealth. Web. 20 May 2015.
Udesky, Laurie. "Caregiving After a Stroke: (Part 2)." Caregiving After a Stroke: (Part 2). Web. 20 May 2015.
Reviewed May 21, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith