Depending on the extent of the damage done to their bodies, the disabilities ranged from mild dysfunctions to complete loss of mobility, becoming wheelchair bound, losing the ability of the hands, and speech. The most difficult to accept and overcome seemed to be when they became speech impaired. This often caused times of great frustration, with outbursts of anger, tears, and refusal to cooperate with the nursing staff.
When these situations took place, I would have to take into consideration the level of suffering they were enduring, and ask myself if I would react any better if I were in their place. Many times the stroke victim comes to realize they have turned a page in their lives that will be forever different. They not only have lost physical health, they are facing the realities of losses of homes, family routines that will never be the same, and many of the things they’ve held dear in their personal lives.
If someone in your family has suffered a stroke, and you are finding it difficult to know how to react to the drastic range of emotions, and physical needs of the patient, these are some things I’ve learned over the years, and hope they may help you.
1. Don’t take the tears, anger, or frustration personally. Focus on the immediate need of the loved one, and do what you can to the best of your ability. Give them love, and embrace them. You don’t have to try to have the answers, just be there with compassion; and do what you can to make them as comfortable as possible.
2. After some time has passed, many times they will snap out of it, and it will be as if it never happened; go right along with it. Forget it, and inject love, and joy in your caring routine as much as possible. This strategy lightens the atmosphere tremendously, and the more you use this to your advantage, the less the moments of stress and trauma will occur.
3. When you are helping the stroke victim in their rehabilitation exercises, pay attention to their level of strength, and when they start showing signs of fatigue. Depending on the seriousness of the stroke, they may become tired after only a few minutes of therapy at a time; stop before it causes them pain, or they become agitated. If you try to overdo it, you will have problems with cooperation. As they regain strength and mobility, increase slowly and gradually. Keeping in constant communication with the doctor and nursing staff, in very important to give you the guidance you need in caring for your loved one.
4. Try to emphasize the things the victim can do, and give much encouragement.
5. Be attentive to the things your loved one may find joy and pleasure in that they could benefit from, such as reading material, music they enjoy, radio stations they may like to listen to. These also aide in their regaining certain functions that were lost from the stroke.
6. When they recover enough to do so, try to take them out of the sick room (whether it is the hospital, nursing home, or their own bedroom), and take them for a short drive, even if it is only a short drive. This is of tremendous value to them, it lifts their spirits, brings hope back into their lives, and gives them the simple pleasure of seeing the beauty of the scenery, activity of the world again, and helps them regain the desire to live again.
7. If you are caring for a stroke victim full time; take care of yourself. When you need to, go for a ride, do something for yourself. Make sure you take a needed break as often as you need to. Don’t feel guilty about this, if you become run down, and depressed, you cannot be the agent of healing for the loved one in your care. Taking care of yourself, will help you take care of your loved one.