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Stroke Recovery: Tips for the Caregiver

Coming Home After a Stroke continued...

Be prepared for behavior or mood changes. The losses from stroke, whether temporary or permanent, can be devastating to the survivor. "There are a lot of emotions that crop up after a stroke," Fermental says. "Try not to tell your loved one that you know how they feel, because you really can't know," she says. Instead, offer your love, patience, and support. It can be hard to see a loved one suffer, but feeling grief is a necessary step toward accepting life after stroke.

Be on the lookout for depression. Stroke survivors are at risk for depression -- from 30% to 50% are affected. Depression can interfere with your loved one's recovery. Ask his or her doctor what to look for and seek treatment right away if you see signs of depression.

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 help minimize that risk. Prepare healthy, low-fat meals, encourage exercise, make your home a smoke-free zone, and be sure your loved one takes medications as prescribed and keeps doctor appointments.

Seek help from outside sources. Getting outside help can make all the difference in your ability to balance your life with your loved one's needs. Respite care can give you time apart so that you can relax and rejuvenate. Family members or friends may be able to come in for a few hours a week, or you may want to consider hiring a care provider. Other types of assistance may include homemaker services, adult day care, Meals on Wheels, and transportation services.

You can find services in your area by going to the Eldercare Locator web site maintained by the U.S. Administration on Aging. The Family Caregiver Alliance also maintains a web site where you can find information and resources for caregivers. You can also contact Family Caregiver Alliance by phone at (800) 445-8106.

Learn to say "yes." "If friends ask you if they can help, always take them up on it," Selenick says. "If you don't need help right away, see if they are willing to commit to something specific later on." You may want to prepare a list ahead of time with different tasks people can do -- from grocery shopping and housework to helping manage finances and even providing care.

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