1) Assess the needs of your loved one and your ability to fulfil these needs before the patient gets home from the hospital. As a caregiver, you may need to:
- Provide personal care such as bathing and dressing
- Coordinate health care needs, including medication as well as doctor and rehab appointments
- Help your loved one to maintain and improve the ability to function
- Manage financial dealings such as insurance coverage
- However, be realistic about what you are able to take on and where you may need help
2) Consider safety. Consult with the occupational therapist about changes you may need to make in the home. For example, do you need to move the bedroom to another floor to avoid stairs? Do you need to get rid of throw rugs due to the risk of slipping and falling? Do you need to install grab bars and seats in the bathroom and shower?
3) Remain positive. The recovery process is often slow and your loved one may become frustrated or depressed on returning home. You can help to lift their spirit by praising every sign of progress, no matter how small. Give constant reassurance and keep a diary, or encourage your loved one to keep a diary to show the progress that is being made.
4) Keep in mind that bouts of depression is common after a stroke and can affect both you and the person in your care. Encourage your loved one to speak with a counsellor and seek counselling for yourself. It's important that you talk through your feelings with a counsellor. Ask the doctor for referrals or get the help of support groups like Different Strokes. You can contact members of Different Strokes through a local group or via Facebook.
5) Know the risk factors for a second stroke. Having a stroke puts survivors at a higher risk for a second stroke, so it's important to minimize that risk. Prepare healthy, low-fat meals, encourage exercise, make the home a smoke-free zone and ensure that your loved one takes medications as prescribed and keeps medical appointments.
6) Resist the urge to be overprotective. It's instinctive to want to keep your loved one safe and on the path to recovery. However, it's important to achieve a good balance between doing too much and encouraging your loved one to become independent. Doing too much can frustrate and impede recovery. Encourage your loved one to do as much as possible right from the start. The steps may be small at the beginning but this helps to boost confidence and independence as your loved one regains skills critical to daily living.
7) Be patient. Stroke causes physical damage to the brain, making it difficult to relearn simple tasks. It can affect balance and movement as well as cognitive skills leading to problems with attention, concentration and memory. It can also affect confidence and self-esteem.
8) Set up a daily routine. Make a note of daily tasks that your loved one can perform independently; functions to relearn; and areas where they may need help. Draw up a list of small steps to relearning some of these skills and build short, but frequent, periods in the day to practise movements, exercises and skills.
9) Get Support for yourself. To find a support group near you, speak to the medical professionals attending to the patient, call your local hospital or search for "caregiver support" online. You can find online support groups as well as local groups that meet in your area. Talking with other caregivers can help you feel less alone and provide an opportunity to share resources and caregiving tips.
10) Take care of yourself physically. The more you care for yourself, the better you can provide your loved one with the compassionate care you want to give. It's not selfish to take time for your needs -- it's essential and beneficial for both of you.
Bonus tip -- Remember to laugh: Humor can be your best defense in difficult situations. You are carrying a heavy load and deserve to laugh and feel joy, so it's important to remain open to the good things life has to offer.
Evergreen provides home care and nursing services in the Greater Vancouver area. Learn about our services for in-home stroke recovery patients, or contact us with any questions you may have.