|How to deal with ramifications of a loved one’s stroke
A client recently brought me in to help her navigate her and her husband’s home care needs. Her husband had a big stroke, broke his hip and had a pacemaker put in all in the past 3 years.
The only time he gets out of his chair is to go to the bathroom, to bed, to the doctor and sometimes out to a family member’s house for dinner. When he wants something, he starts to point and grumble. After his stroke he lost his speech and chose not to talk after that. She gets frustrated and then they start fighting. When she doesn’t get up right away to fix him something to drink, he starts to yell or keeps tapping his glass. This wife clearly needed help or someone to talk to about this. What she really needs is respite care. She told me she works full time, helps take care of her elderly mother who’s in her late 90s and takes care of their grandchildren on some weekends, too. She needs help. Does this sounds familiar to you? Even slightly?
Caregiving must be one of the most challenging jobs on earth. Suddenly, or with little warning, your life can be turned upside down and you are left with a whole new set of responsibilities. The work is physically and emotionally demanding, and it’s complicated by the effects of disease – cardiovascular disease in this case of the woman’s husband —and by family dynamics. The big myth is that somehow we should know how to cope. Not true! It can feel completely overwhelming. And that’s why we need support. Caregiving is not a sprint, it’s a marathon – days, weeks, and in your case, years of hard work. It can be richly rewarding, and it can also be a really tough slog, especially if the person you are caring for behaves in ways you find challenging.
You are not alone. Millions of caregivers are feeling what you feel. Acknowledge and accept your feelings and reach out for support. Join a support group. You can call Home Instead, and we can offer you different support groups in our community that you might find beneficial.
The simple act of sharing your story with others can bring relief. The emotional support and friendship fellow members offer can be very sustaining. Sharing tips can be a big help. The American Heart and Stroke Association has a support group finder on their website. I encourage you to check it out.
In addition to a support group, it sounds like she needed to find other sources of support. I encouraged her to think about who you could ask for help. Do you have friends or family members you can call on? If you are a member of a faith group, they may have resources. A geriatric care manager could certainly assess your situation and give you some great advice. I know several personally who I can recommend to you if you need resources, so call Home Instead for these community resources.
Strokes affect everyone differently – physically, mentally and emotionally. A lot depends on what part of the brain was injured and how much damage was done. Regardless of what kind of stroke your loved one had, it’s normal to be tired afterwards because the body has so much to recover from. Depression is very common after a stroke, and I wonder if your loved one too might be depressed.
This woman’s husband went through a lot in three years. I encouraged her to talk with his stroke rehabilitation team and ask about depression. If this can be managed, his overall recovery may pick up. Remember that if you find yourself in a similar situation with your loved one.
Another question to ask, is your loved one getting the right rehabilitation after a stroke? Rehab is an essential part of recovery. It’s designed to help stroke patients re-learn skills and regain their strength as much as possible. There are a range of services for people who have survived a stroke. Usually, these are discussed while the stroke survivor is still in the hospital. They will vary, depending on the nature and severity of the stroke. There is an excellent booklet published by the US Agency for HealthCare Research and Quality that was written to help people who have had a stroke achieve the best possible recovery. This booklet outlines the services that are available to stroke survivors, and where you can go for more information. Go to http://www.strokecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Recovering-After-a-Stroke.pdf.
Good luck and don’t forget to reach out to respite care whether it’s from family, friends or hire at home care such as Home Instead to provide you with a much deserved break.
Julie Ann Anderson is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park; mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.