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Surviving Stroke: Family Caregiver Stories

Every 40 seconds someone in the U.S. has a stroke, and 17% of those strokes are fatal. For the 83% that survive, it’s often a long road to recovery. In fact, stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability, reducing mobility in more than half of survivors age 65 and over.

Being a family caregiver for your parent or loved one after a stroke can feel overwhelming, especially if you weren’t already helping them in some way. One of the most important things to know is that you are not alone! Many others are navigating the same terrain and learning how they managed it can be a big help.

Read on to learn how five family caregivers handled the situation and what advice they would give others going through the same thing.  

This Is What It’s Like to Become Your Husband’s Caregiver

Musicians John and Kelly had been married for 8 years when he suffered a massive stroke, and just as Kelly arrived at the hospital to see him, he had a second stroke. John was in the hospital for 2½ weeks and then in a skilled nursing facility for a month. For the first six months, he could barely speak and had to rely on the use of a wheelchair to get around. That’s when Kelly had to become not only a caregiver, but the family breadwinner as well. 

In this blog post, Kelly describes a common emotion that caregivers can feel and how she copes:

 “I would be lying if I said that I never felt angry or upset. Once I was pushing John in his wheelchair, in the days before most sidewalks had handicapped ramps. As I lifted John’s wheelchair onto the sidewalk, my body filled with rage. I was angry that I would spend the rest of my life pushing a wheelchair. I was angry that we had lost our careers when we were at the top of our field. This is not what I wanted from life, I wanted to scream. Over the years, I have developed tools like meditation and affirmations to deal with my anger so that it doesn’t cripple me.”

Read more of John and Kelly’s story in the full post.

The Gift of Caregiving 

Diana Pierce’s mom had a massive stroke in 2000. It was a tough decision, but Diana and her family determined that her mother would not be able to stay in her home any longer, so Diana moved her mother from California to her home in Minnesota. 

Initially, her mother had difficulty speaking but was still capable of making decisions. Diana feels it was important to recognize this. 

 “Your loved one is still there. Let them make as many decisions as they can for as long as they can.”

As her mother’s health declined, Diana was grateful to have a health care directive so she knew she was making decisions her mom would have wanted – even if she couldn’t say them herself. 

Diana has some great insights and advice after being a caregiver to her mother for 14 years. Watch the short video of her experience here.

You’re Not Alone: Stories from Caregivers Like You

Dawn and Marc Edwards have been through a lot in their 29-year marriage – including Marc beating cancer. They can now add getting through not one, but two strokes to their list of accomplishments. 

Marc suspected he was having a stroke after walking the dog one evening, but he didn’t feel bad enough to go to the hospital. The next morning, he woke up and felt normal at first. But then he suffered a second stroke. After days in ICU then participating in a rehab program, Marc was able to go home but still needed Dawn to help him. In this article, Dawn opens up about some of the issues she faces as a caregiver for her husband:

“As a caregiver, I’ve had to put my life and my goals on hold for now. From all the blogs and pages you read about caregivers, it’s hard. It’s a hard road. It’s very tiring. But do you want this or do you want to not have your spouse with you? So I’d rather be tired.”.

Dawn credits her husband’s positive attitude with helping her keep perspective on the situation. 

“I am always amazed of how he laughs every day, and how he makes other people laugh,” Dawn said. “He has a smile on his face when I would be in tears.”  

Learn more about Dawn and Marc’s journey in the full post.

The Good Daughter: A Caregiver’s Long-Term Care Story

Having a full-time job and a family to care for can be stressful on its own but adding caregiving for a parent can take that stress to another level. Lauren Jiles-Johnson’s mother was in good health when she came to live with her, but just two weeks after moving in she suffered a massive stroke and lost most of the movement on her right side. 

As a result, Lauren had to add caregiving to her already busy life. Those days were a blur of errands, chores and work. I remember thinking of laundry as a marathon each week, washing clothes and linens for three adults and two little children. Just leaving the room required extensive explanations.”

Lauren is grateful that she was able to bring in a bit of outside help to assist her but recognizes that most people don’t consider this in their long-term planning. In this article she talks about how her experience with her mother inspired her to take control of her own situation:

“My health is outstanding and I have every expectation of living a long, healthy life. But there is a chance that some day when I am 90, I will need some help with a few everyday activities. If that happens, my long-term care insurance will help me to remain in my home. It will pay for caregivers to do the heavy lifting. When my children and future grandchildren visit, it will not be to work, it will be for movie night or game night with grandma.”

Read about her caregiving experience and what she learned here.

Conclusion:

It’s okay to ask for help! Stroke recovery is a common issue affecting seniors – we even have a specialty training program built around it. If you’d like to learn more about how we can support you in your family caregiving role, please reach out for a complimentary discovery call with a client service specialist. We are here for you!

Sources: How many people are affected by/at risk for stroke? – National Institute of Health

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