Mercy Stroke Center
Information for Stroke Caregivers
Information for Stroke Caregivers Most likely your role as stroke caregiver is something you somewhat “fell” into – without warning a loved one experienced a stroke and now you find yourself, without training or preparation, providing nearly round-the-clock care for someone who has significant physical, medical, and emotional needs. This role can be enormously stressful, confusing, and time-consuming. Make sure that you’re doing what you need to take care of yourself for the long-run so that you can be the best possible caregiver for your loved one. Following are some tips to best navigate your new role:
- Delegate, delegate, delegate. Being a caregiver to a stroke patient is a demanding job. In order to do the best possible job you will need to get help. Sit down with your family and explain, as best as you are able, what caregiving will require of you and what you will therefore need from them. Make it as practical as possible. For example, explain that you will need one of them to be responsible for doing the family’s laundry, and that someone else will need to take care of making lunches. Reach out beyond your immediate family and ask friends for help as well. Ask friends to help with practical needs like picking up your carpool duty or having a child get off the bus at their house in the afternoons until you can pick them up. Make a short list of things that regularly need your attention that you could get some help with from other people so that you can focus on your role as caregiver.
- Get support for yourself. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed and increasingly alone in your new role of caregiver. Find and tap into a local support group or an online community of stroke caregivers to meet other people in the same role who can answer your questions, be a sounding board, share their insight, and encourage you along the way.
- Find an outlet. Caregiving can easily become a 24/7 job. If you don’t have something that helps keep you refreshed you will burn out quickly. Think of one or two things that you can do while you are watching your loved one that you enjoy – maybe it’s reading, needlepoint, scrapbooking, etc. Make arrangements to get some regular time away from the hospital, rehabilitation center or nursing home while your loved one is recovering. When your loved one goes home you will need to continue building time for yourself into your schedule so that you are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually able to keep going in your role as caregiver.
- File it away and write it down. You are very quickly going to become the point person that everyone comes to with questions and information regarding your loved one. Gather all the information you already have in one place (i.e. insurance, medication, doctor’s contact information, legal documents, financial documents). Create a simple portable filing system so that you have everything with you at your fingertips. Then get a notebook – or use your tablet or laptop – and write or record information from every phone call you make, appointment you attend, conversation you have with a doctor or therapist or insurance company. You are likely to become very tired at points and if you write everything down you won’t have to rely on memory.
- Know your loved one’s wishes. Does your loved one have a healthcare proxy? Power of attorney? A “do not resuscitate (DNR)” order? These are important things to know or work to find out if you don’t. Ask your loved one, other family members, or your loved one’s lawyer for help in learning what legal documents may already exist so that you can ensure your loved one’s wishes are respected or to determine what legal authority you may need to secure to best help your loved one going forward.