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When Stroke Happens

By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer

(Page 3 of 3)

The “Stroke Caregivers Handbook” says that most caregivers who have been through this phase will not even consider outpatient therapy to begin with because a loved one will be very weak and need more assistance initially than they think.

Insurance companies may dictate where and how long a loved one can remain at a rehab facility, but caregivers are important advocates in these situations.

A loved one must begin to accept a new “normal” after a stroke. Many times, it’s hard to know what physical and mental limitations will improve with continued therapy. Only time will tell.

The first thing to address at home is a loved one’s safety, especially in the bathroom. A loved one may also come home with a new set of habits which were formed around a different level of care, and most likely, the ability to move around in a secured environment. Caregivers must help establish a new routine within the living quarters available to their loved one, as well as availability of a caregiver. This also may mean meals are at different times than at the rehab facility and treats are not always served at 7 p.m., for example. A caregiver needs to decide which habits can be kept and which need to be tossed.

A caregiver will also be facing a change in routine and have a shock to their “normal.” The main thing is to accept reality and progress as it comes, even though it may not lead back to the way things were before the stroke. Family and friends may not understand and therapy visits will become less and less, leaving the caregiver and loved one to wade through the post-stroke life alone. There is hope and joy to be found in each situation, however.

Don’t worry, be happy

Depression is a very real side effect of a stroke, for both caregiver and loved one. Honesty about emotions is a first step to dealing with them and moving forward.

Studies show that an optimistic attitude reduces the risk of stroke overall, but affirmations and positive thinking are just as important after a stroke.

Frustration and discouragement will be normal, but even small victories should be celebrated and empower caregivers and loved ones to go the next step. A big hurdle is the embarrassment associated with not being able to function as before, especially in public. Caregivers should encourage public outings because it will lessen the likeliness of depression and lonely thoughts.

Positive thinking and expecting the best, not the worst, promotes health and prevention of future strokes. It also helps a caregiver keep their best health and attitude, for their new role and any others they may have.

Strokes are complex and affect both loved one and caregiver in a multitude of ways. With good organization, awareness and attitude, it can be handled in a way that leaves both fulfilled and enjoying life, whatever it may bring.

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