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Caregiver assistance and support during the rehabilitation period is essential for the stroke survivor for both physical and emotional recovery. This role can be very difficult to take on in addition to previous family roles and responsibilities. A common challenge many face is learning how to be an effective caregiver while remaining able to care for yourself.
The immediate period after your loved one suffers a stroke is a stressful time, however take every opportunity to gain whatever bits of knowledge you can. Learn about your loved one’s condition and the likely course of their recovery. Be sure to find out the specifics of your insurance coverage. Case managers are excellent resources to help navigate the insurance world and understand coverage for inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation.
Learn about the plan for rehabilitation from the physical, occupational and speech therapists that are working with your loved one. Be present for therapy sessions and have therapists show you how you can assist with exercises to improve strength and coordination. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! The inpatient and outpatient care teams are there for not only the patient, but the family care unit as well.
After stroke, emotional changes are common in the stroke survivor and caregiver. Loss of function and independence leads to frustration and grief, however, some types of stroke can put your loved one at a higher risk of depression. Talk to a doctor if your loved one experiences symptoms of depression such as extended periods of sadness, anger, and loss of interest in things they once loved.
There are many caregiver obligations but you don’t have to do it all yourself. Reach out for support! Ask for family, friends or neighbors to help with grocery shopping, cleaning or respite care. Take time for yourself to rest, relax and refresh. Join your local stroke support group to talk to others who share similar caregiver challenges and learn what resources are available to you.
Summary of “Stroke Recovery: Tips for Caregivers” by Brenda Conaway, reviewed by Michael W. Smith M.D.