Celebrating Caregivers: Navigating Life Caring for a Stroke Survivor

November is National Caregiver Month, and here at Moxie OT, we want to recognize how important caregivers are in the lives of stroke survivors. We also want to provide some useful information to those who care for stroke survivors.

Being a caregiver can bring up a mix of feelings. You might feel proud, connected, and fulfilled, but you can also feel frustrated, tired, and overwhelmed. It's okay to have all these feelings. It can help to talk to a therapist or join support groups for caregivers. Taking care of yourself is important because when you're well, you can better help your loved one who had a stroke. You'll better understand their condition, be their advocate, and follow their healthcare plan more effectively. Don't hesitate to ask for help, take breaks, or share your feelings. Protect your back by positioning yourself correctly while you help your loved one.

Understanding your loved one's injury and care plan is also crucial. You can find helpful information online, on reliable websites like the American Stroke Association website. Asking questions to the doctor or occupational therapist can clarify important information. For example:

  • What part of the brain was affected by the stroke?
  • What changes can I expect in their behavior and abilities?
  • How can we prevent another stroke?
  • How do I protect my back while I help my loved one?
  • Show me exercises I can do with my loved one to help them get better. (Have the therapist watch you demonstrate the exercise routine to make sure you understood!)
  • Knowing their medications and when to take them is important too.

During the first year after a stroke, your loved one will usually make the most progress. It can be hard to balance your needs, your other responsibilities, and your caregiving role, but try not to miss therapy appointments or forget medications. An occupational therapist can help you identify ways to manage these many concerns. Sometimes something as simple as a calendar, checklist, or pill organizer can be a huge help. It's important for your loved one’s short-term and long-term health. It is also important to manage other health conditions that your loved one may have, such as diabetes. Managing diabetes is critical to prevent another stroke from happening.

While it is important to provide care, it is just as important to make space for your loved one’s participation in their daily activities. This will help them stay motivated and regain abilities. When your loved one finds a task difficult, ask questions like “how could you make this easier?” or “what do you need to do next?” before rushing in to help. Allow them to direct you. Brainstorm options for leisure activities that are possible and meaningful to your loved one to keep them engaged in activity. Consider what household tasks might be possible and appropriate for your loved one to help with. For example, even if they cannot load and unload laundry yet, they may be able to sort laundry or use a folding mat to fold shirts. It can also help to organize your home in a way that promotes safety and independence. Consider having an occupational therapist visit your home to help you with this. 

Remember, you play a vital role as a caregiver. Recognize the good that you do! If you need more support, consider talking to an occupational therapist.

Guest Blogger: Hannah Brownstein, OTS