Coping With a Stroke: What to Expect When Becoming a Caregiver to Your Parent

It’s every person’s worst nightmare. The phone rings and it’s a hospital attendant on the other end telling you your parent has suffered a stroke.

This can change your life in a single moment, sending you into a world of changes and new obstacles. You have now become the caregiver.

This is a scary experience, but it need not blindside you totally. You can cope if you are prepared for the changes that lie ahead, and you are willing to take the necessary time to learn how to care for your parent.

If your parent has a stroke, be prepared for these changes:

  • After suffering a stroke, a person can have mood changes, crying easily or for no reason at all, or laughing out loud at inappropriate times. A person that was once shy and timid might now be impulsive, causing him or her to be reckless and at a greater risk for injury.
  • Physical problems could also arise, such as problems swallowing, vision impairment or mobility issues. These issues all lead to lifestyle changes. Stroke survivors may need to learn how to prepare their meals, how to compensate for lack of vision or how to move around.
  • Speech issues can result from stroke. Sometimes a person can’t speak at all. Or, they may be able to speak, but can’t understand what others are saying.
  • Following a stroke, individuals often need to take numerous medications. Proper dosing will have to be followed, and you’ll need to learn how the medications will affect your parent. For example, if a medication makes your parent bleed easier, they will need to use an electric or safety razor when shaving.
  • Some stroke survivors need to rely on a wheelchair for mobility, at least for some period of time. You may need to make changes in the home to accommodate them. For example, a bathroom may have to be modified to include hand rails, a shower seat or a lowered toilet.

The more involved you are in your parent’s rehabilitation process, the easier it will be when you take him or her home.

Hands-on training is the key to success. I suggest you join your parent during his or her rehabilitation sessions. You should become a fully integrated member of the rehabilitation team, working side-by-side with clinicians and staying informed at every stage of the process.

The more interaction you have with your parent throughout the rehabilitation process, the easier it will be when you have to care for him or her on your own.

You may feel overwhelmed as you help transition your parent to his or her new life. A good way to cope with these feelings is to share them. Seek out a support group in your area for the family members of stroke survivors.

You may also want to encourage your parent to participate in a stroke support group as well.

And get out of the house when you can. People who suffer a life-altering event, such as a stroke, can become depressed. It’s good to get them out and among other people, doing the things they loved to do before so they can continue to live their life.

Being a caregiver to a parent who has suffered a stroke can be difficult. But you are not alone. There are still good times to be had. Use this time to bond with your parent, building an even stronger relationship than the one you had before.

And remember, it wasn’t too long ago they were caring for you. This is just your time to return the favor.

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