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Coming Home After a Stroke continued...

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.

Taking Care of Yourself

The more you care for yourself, the better you can care for your loved one. Exhausting yourself won't allow you to provide the patient, loving help you want to give. It's not selfish to take time for your needs -- it's essential, and beneficial, for both of you.

Be patient with yourself. No one is a perfect caregiver anymore than they are a perfect parent. You've never done this before and will have a lot to learn. Build your skills and boost your confidence by taking caregiver classes or workshops offered in your community.

Don't lose your life. "Adjusting to being a caregiver is in some ways like the shock of becoming a parent," Selenick says. "Suddenly, all of your time is devoted to meeting someone else's needs, and it's hard not to think, 'What about me?'"

Remember that you have a right to your own time and activities. Plan time apart and recharge your batteries by participating in favorite pastimes. It's especially important not to isolate yourself. So make time to talk with and visit friends.  

Focus on your physical health. Don't ignore minor health concerns, and be sure to get regularly scheduled checkups and health exams. Learn healthy ways to manage stress and relax. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep will help you keep up your strength.

Focus on your emotional health. Allow yourself to feel frustrated, angry, and sad, and share it with someone other than your loved one. These feeling are normal, and in order to not dwell on them, you need to express them. This is where friends and support groups can play an important role.

Studies show that caregivers are also at risk for depression, especially if the survivor has dementia. Depression responds well to treatment, so talk with your doctor if you think you may be depressed.

Get Support. To find a support group near you, call your local hospital or do an online search for "caregiver support." You can find online support groups as well as local meetings in your area. Talking with other caregivers can help you feel less alone and provide an opportunity to share resources and caregiving tips.

Remember to laugh. Humor can be your best defense against difficult situations and feelings. You are carrying a heavy load and deserve to laugh and feel joy, so it's important to remain open to the good things life has to offer.

Recovery Tips

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