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First Steps for Caregivers continued...

Participate in stroke rehabilitation. Attend a few therapy sessions so that you can support your loved one during stroke recovery. Encourage the stroke survivor to practice new skills, but don't always jump in to help. "Don't do too much," Fermental says. "Be supportive, and allow survivors to do things for themselves." Even small accomplishments will help your loved one become more self-reliant and confident.

Assess your loved one's needs as well as your ability to meet them. The stroke survivor's health care team can help you determine what kind of help will be needed. Caregivers often need to:

  • provide personal care such as bathing and dressing
  • coordinate health care needs including medications and doctor and rehab appointments
  • manage finances and insurance coverage
  • help the survivor maintain and increase his or her ability to function

Remember that you can't do everything. Try to be realistic with yourself about what you can take on and what you may need help with.

Coming Home After a Stroke

Once your loved one leaves the hospital, the reality of the situation may begin to sink in for both of you. Here are some things to consider as you take on your new roles. 

Consider safety. Ask the occupational therapist if you need to do anything to make the home safer. You may need to move the bedroom to another floor to avoid stairs, get rid of throw rugs to help prevent falls, or put grab bars and seats in the bathroom and shower.

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.

Recovery Tips

See key ways to help regain the use of your arm after a stroke.
View slideshow