Caregivers are parents, spouses, children, brothers, sisters, partners and friends. They are the mainstays in caring for the sick patient and play an important role in the recovery process. A brain injured patient’s recovery may last for a few short months, or it may last for three to five years, depending on the degree of the brain injury.
Providing care for a loved one with a serious condition can be a rewarding and satisfying experience. However, it can be stressful and frustrating. It is important to remember as a caregiver to take care of yourself. Here are some helpful tips to follow:
- Caregiving is a choice.
We fall into this role unexpectedly, but you need not feel like a victim. Take charge of your life. Do not let your loved one’s illness or disability always take center stage.
- Recognize how extraordinary you are.
- Your own good health is the best gift you can give your loved one. You deserve quality time. It is your right. Determine your priorities, ask family members and friends to assist with respite care, so you can get enough rest, exercise and enjoy outside activities.
- Call on nurses, psychologists, social workers, counselors and clergy for help to reduce feelings of isolation or suggestions of other people who might help.
- Caregiving is more than a one-person job.
- Look for help, ask for help, and at times, demand it. Don’t be ashamed to ever ask for help. If people offer help, accept it and suggest things that they can do.
- Be aware of what you are able to do and what you are not able to do. Set realistic goals. Give yourself credit; celebrate the large and small gains.
- Allow yourself to make mistakes. Trust your own instincts.
- Information is very helpful.
- Educate yourself about your loved one’s medical condition. Learn about new medical treatments and ideas.
- Encourage independence in your loved one.
- Look for signs of depression.
- Loss of energy.
- Change in appetite causing weight loss or gain.
- Loss of enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable.
- Difficulty with concentration or making difficult decisions.
- Inability to sleep or too much sleeping.
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
- Don’t delay in getting professional help. Referral to a psychologist for counseling or antidepressant medications may be helpful.
Seek support from other caregivers. There is strength in knowing that you are not alone. Talk with a friend or confidant every day, and stick to topics other than the illness or disability you face every day. Remember that laughter will ease the stress and frustration.
Families Caring for Stroke Patients Have Real Concerns and Fears
We may feel an intense sadness because our loved one has suffered a brain injury, has lost mobility, and possibly may never achieve normal life functioning. This sadness comes from wanting the miracle of a normal life. There may be a sense of isolation even with everyday activities of life, which everyone takes for granted. There may be a fear of inability to care for the patient adequately, not understanding the emotional needs and behavioral changes of the stroke patient, feeling impatient with your loved one, feeling guilt, frustration and fear of abandonment by family and friends. Regardless of which label you give them, recognize that all of these feelings are normal. Admit they exist, accept them and put your efforts into dealing with them. Realize that your situation is not unique. There are many caregivers who have the same feelings about their situations.
Words from the Heart
- You will find the inner strength that most of us never knew we had. This can help get you through the difficult caregiving days.
- You have the power to make a difference.
- You have the understanding that caregiving tests our abilities, our faith and our character.
- You can define family caregivers by their emotions, their spirit and the sadness in their eyes, and also the determination in their hearts.
Caregivers are very special people. If you or someone you know is struggling in the role of family caregiver please call us at 889-CARE (2273) to find a support group near you.