How to Help a Loved One After a Stroke

Guest Post By:Amanda Kaestner

Since a stroke is a type of brain injury, moving, talking, or thinking after one may be difficult for a survivor. One part of his or her body may be stronger than the other, and these complications can last short-term or possibly long-term. Recovery rates vary significantly from one survivor to the next. As a loved one copes with life after such a traumatic experience, it may be difficult to know how to help.

Here are four ways loved ones, acting as caregivers, can navigate that tricky post-stroke period.

Find Simple Fixes

After a stroke, everyday tasks may prove to be more difficult or even severely hinder a loved one's independence. Help him or her simplify. A quick 'fix' may be just the thing to keep survivors' and caregivers' stress levels down. 

In an article entitled, "15 Things Caregivers Should Know After a Loved One Has Had a Stroke", the American Heart Association states that, "The most rapid recovery usually occurs during the first three to four months after a stroke, but some stroke survivors continue to recover well into the first and second year post-stroke." This is why short term rehabilitation immediately following a stroke may be the most proactive resolution for permanent recovery. So, a loved one may experience incredible pain or frustration when trying to complete daily tasks for some time, but it’s possible to help him or her discover ways to cope in the interim.

For example, if shoe laces are too difficult to tie, help him or her find comfortable pairs that simply slip on or have Velcro enclosures. If he or she currently has difficulty using buttons, zippered sweatshirts or plain t-shirts may need to suffice -- for now.

Notice the Warning Signs of Depression

Depression is common after a stroke. It can greatly inhibit recovery, so it's pertinent for a caregiver to pay attention to the warning signs of depression. If the survivor exhibits signs of ultra-low energy, loss of interest in things once loved, or if he or she feels sad for two or more weeks, depression may have set in.

According to the "Recovering After a Stroke: A Patient and Family Guide" by the U.S. Agency for HealthCare Research and Quality, other symptoms of depression (physical or psychological) may include:

  • ·         Feeling slowed down, restless, or unable to sit still.
  • ·         Feeling worthless or guilty.
  • ·         Change in appetite or weight.
  • ·         Problems concentrating, thinking, remembering, or making decisions.
  • ·         Sleeping problems.
  • ·         Loss of energy or feeling constant fatigue.

Get treatment for depression and note which medications are being consumed as they may have side effects that help spur such feelings. Talk of suicide or suicidal behaviors needs to be reported to a professional immediately. 

Help Prevent Another Stroke

After the first stroke, the likelihood that another stroke can happen within the next year increases. Help a loved one understand that a stroke is a wake-up call. He or she may need to start regularly and consistently taking new medications, work on diet changes, stop smoking, start an exercise routine, visit doctors or physical therapists routinely, or make other major or minor lifestyle changes. The road to recovery is different for each patient, and it can be blocked with his or her resistance to change, frustration, and even fear. 

Caregivers Also Need Encouragement

When a loved one has suffered through a major health nightmare, love, understanding, and a helping hand can assist in recovery. However, this situation is not easy for a caregiver either.

Seek out caregiver community support groups.
Ask a relative, friend, or neighbor for help or respite.
Schedule some periods of fun or relaxation, whether that's a spa day, an hour-long massage, a night at the movie theater, or a concert.

The Family Caregiver Alliance®, the public voice for caregivers, encourages them to: "Forgive yourself—often. You cannot be a perfect caregiver, all day, every day."
It's nearly impossible to tackle all of the challenges tomorrow may bring your way without some breaks away from the stress. Depression can easily take hold of caregivers, too. Caregivers need to put themselves first from time to time so they can calmly and effectively take care of those around them. 

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