Caring for someone who has had a stroke is a challenge. The new responsibilities can be both physically and mentally exhausting. Here are some tips to help make life easier on both of you as you provide care.
Physical challenges are often the most obvious. Common ones include:
- Transferring to and from the bed
- Walking or using a wheelchair
- Bathing and dressing
- Using the toilet
There are many devices available to make these actions easier and safer; most are available at a local medical supply store or pharmacy. The physical or occupational therapist can work with you as you learn to use them. Some common devices:
- Sliding board
- Wheelchair with removable armrests
- Commode with drop-arms or raised toilet seat
- Walker or cane
- Gait belt
- Shower chair/tub bench
- Hand-held shower head/long-handled bath sponge
- Dressing equipment: sock-aid, reacher, long-handled shoe horn, dressing stick
Transferring your loved one can be dangerous to both of you if done improperly. Here are some tips on how to transfer safely:
- If your loved one is unable to fully stand, use a wheelchair with removable armrests and a drop-arm commode to make transfers easier.
- Make sure that both surfaces (bed and wheelchair, chair and commode, etc.) are secure. Lock brakes, remove obstacles and get the surfaces as close as possible.
- Use a gait belt whenever possible.
- When lifting, bend your knees, lift with your legs, and keep the person as close to you as possible.
- When helping someone with bathing or dressing, sit in a chair or squat down rather than bending over.
- Be clear in your instructions and communicate with each other.
When speech is affected, communication can be frustrating. Ask the speech therapist for information about using these tools to make communication easier:
- Gestures: Many people use gestures to communicate things they cannot say. If you learn these signals, it will be easier to provide assistance.
- Pencil and paper: If the ability to write is still present, have your loved one express their needs or feelings on paper.
- Communication board/book: Point to pictures (food, bed, TV, etc.) or phrases (I am tired, I am in pain, etc.) on paper is a quick way to make needs known. These aids often include an alphabet or keyboard set-up to spell out words.
- Electronic aids: These aids use computer devices to help people communicate. Some programs have sensors for head movements if they are unable to use their arms. New technology is coming out regularly in this area.
Caregiver Schedule: Get several family members, friends, or hired caregivers on a regular schedule. This will ensure that no one person takes on too much burden. If you are the primary caregiver, make sure you have regular days off each week to avoid physical injury and emotional burnout.
Encourage your Loved One:Make sure that the person you are caring for sticks to their rehab program and does as much as possible on their own. This will ease your burden and help them return to independence as quickly as possible.
Support Groups:There are support groups available for survivors of stroke and their families. Check with your local hospital or go online to find one near you. These groups not only provide a support system for you and your loved one; they will also give you great tips and practical information.