Caregivers - The Unsung Heroes of Stroke Recovery

By: Adina Bitton, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist

Stroke Recovery

Caregivers - The Unsung Heroes of Stroke Recovery

Caregivers - The Unsung Heroes of Stroke Recovery

Experiencing a stroke can be devastating, leaving behind a trail of challenges and impairments to navigate. Lately, there has been a stronger emphasis on getting stroke patients back home quickly to continue their recovery in a familiar environment. While this is undoubtedly a positive step that allows patients to return to the comforts of home sooner, it also places a significant burden on the closest caregivers, especially during the crucial early months of recovery. We're talking about the unsung heroes of the recovery process – spouses, children, grandchildren, friends, dedicated nurses, and aides. These caregivers become the primary support system, providing essential care during the critical stages when the patient needs it the most.

Caregivers serve many roles. They provide physical care, such as assisting with everyday activities like bathing, dressing, and eating; emotional care such as providing support for a loved one who is dealing with the aftermath of a significant trauma and lingering deficits; financial care as the expenses of the recovery process can add up; and coordination of care including management of appointments and correspondence with medical providers.

But like many unsung heroes, support for caregivers is often overlooked. Caregivers are navigating entirely new terrain and often taking on new roles that are physically, emotionally and financially demanding. It is important to know what resources are available and to reach out for help to ensure that the caregiver is being cared for as well. 

If one suddenly finds themselves in the role of caregiver for a stroke survivor, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Seek out support: Being a caregiver can be challenging. And lonely. Joining a caregiver support group can provide a safe space to connect with others who are going through similar experiences. It can also provide emotional support and practical advice for managing caregiving responsibilities.
  2. Utilize resources: There are many resources available to help caregivers, including home health aides, respite care, and community services. Caregivers should research and take advantage of these resources to reduce their workload and get the support they need.
  3. Communicate with healthcare providers: Caregivers should establish clear lines of communication with healthcare providers to ensure that they are informed about their loved one's condition and treatment plan. This can help them better manage caregiving responsibilities and avoid misunderstandings.
  4. Celebrate Small Victories: Caregiving is a journey filled with ups and downs. Celebrate every small victory, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Recognize the progress made, both by your loved one and yourself. 
  5. Prioritize self-care: Caregiving can be physically and emotionally exhausting, so caregivers must prioritize self-care. This can include getting enough rest, eating well, exercising, and taking breaks when needed.
  6. Ask for help: Caregivers should not be afraid to ask for help from family, friends, or healthcare providers. It is essential to recognize when caregiving responsibilities are becoming too much to handle alone and ask for assistance.
  7. Get organized: Caregiving requires careful planning and organization. Caregivers should keep track of appointments, medications, and other important information to reduce stress and ensure that their loved ones receive the best care possible.

The role of a caregiver is challenging and can often feel underappreciated. As a clinical psychologist, I have worked with many individuals who feel overwhelmed by the burden of caregiving. Keeping these tips in mind - focusing on small victories, taking the process one step at a time, being patient with oneself and the process, and knowing that you are not alone - can help you navigate this new chapter.

Adina Bitton is a Regulatory Affairs Associate and Neuroscience Research Analyst at BrainQ Technologies. With a background in neuropsychology, clinical psychology, and neuroscience, Adina combines her unique expertise to advance brain-related technology and make valuable contributions to reduce the burden of neurological diseases.