Family caregivers and friends play a critical role in a loved one’s recovery from stroke, particularly as time spent in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities continues to decrease. Stroke recovery lasts for at least two years after stroke onset, so most of the support during this period comes from informal sources including friends and family members.
Providing care for a stroke patient can be an extremely rewarding experience. At the same time, it can be very stressful and frustrating to be suddenly thrust into the position of caregiver with little or no warning. It is crucial to remember to take care of your own needs in addition to those of the patient.
Also important to note is that stress tends to increase over time if the caregiver’s needs are not met. Some of those needs may include the need for information (especially better understanding of the emotional and behavioral changes of the patient), the need for skills in the physical aspects of care, and the need for support in the “case management” aspects of care. In terms of emotional reactions, caregivers often feel one or more of the following: anxiety, guilt, depression, frustration, resentment, impatience, and fear. (Fear that a stroke may happen again, fear that the stroke survivor may be unable to accept his or her disabilities, fear that the survivor may require nursing home placement, fear that the caregiver may make mistakes, and fear that families and friends will abandon them.) Coping with these reactions is paramount to a healthy caregiver, and ultimately, to a well-adjusted patient.
For more information and tips on caring for stroke survivors, please visit Stroke Family Caregiving for African-Americans. Designed specifically with African-American caregivers in mind, this seection nonetheless contains universal information for stroke family caregivers from all walks of life.