The word stroke is an all too familiar and scary medical term that has touched the lives of many in this country. Nearly 800,000 folks in the U.S. have a stroke every single year with about three in four being first-time episodes. Stroke is the number 5 cause of death, and African Americans are more impacted by it than any other racial group.
Stroke is an illness that occurs when there is an interruption of blood flow to an area of the brain causing damage. The illness can cause a number of medical issues that can run the gamut affecting such things as personality, emotions, behavior, movement, touch, vision, and cognition.
A stroke can happen to anyone at any moment. The impact of a stroke is profound, and someone’s life is likely to change after having experienced one. If a loved one has suffered a stroke, understanding what it is all about will help you, help them, get a better grip on what they are facing.
Here are 12 things you need to know as a caregiver after your loved one has suffered a stroke:
- Familiarize yourself with your loved one’s prescribed medications and their side effects. Ask the physician to explain in writing, if necessary, all the info you did not understand about your loved one’s condition.
- Do you need to make any modifications in the home to meet the needs of the stroke survivor like adding a ramp or railings?
- Since stroke survivors are at high risk for having another episode, make sure their course of treatment is followed to the letter! They should be sticking to a healthy diet, exercise regimen like walking, taking meds as prescribed, and keeping scheduled visits with their physician.
- Avoid comparing your loved one’s recovery time to other stroke victims. Recovery depends on so many factors like the type of stroke suffered, patient’s motivation, surrounding support, quality of rehab; keep in mind that every stroke victim is different.
- Make sure to have a physical or occupational therapy program in place for your loved one especially if they have balance issues, walking difficulty, or are unable to walk six minutes without taking a breather. If speech is also a struggle, seek the services of a speech therapist.
- Depression after a stroke is fairly common, particularly in its early phase. Feeling down and hopeless after a stroke can affect your loved one’s attitude towards recovery and they may actually sabotage their rehabilitation. Consult a doctor to discuss a plan of action.
- Medicare coverage for rehabilitation therapies may be available if your loved one’s physical function has changed. If there appears to be an improvement or decline in motor skills, speech, or self-care since the last time the patient was in therapy, he/she may be eligible for more services.
- Stay on top of insurance coverage for your loved one. Make sure you know how long rehab is covered by an insurer. Get clear on what medical and rehab services are available for hospital and outpatient care. Find out what the out-of-pocket expenses are for any service provided.
- If rehab services are denied due to lack of medical necessity, contact your loved one’s physician to get them to appeal the denial.
- Know your rights.You have the right to access your loved one’s medical and rehabilitation records. You are entitled to copies of the medical records, including written notes, and brain imaging films, especially if you are named as a personal representative on their Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA form.
- Get the support you and your loved one need from your surrounding community. Consider joining a support group for you, the caregiver, or for your loved one, the stroke survivor. Contact any of the following organizations for help:
National Stroke Association (Hope After Stroke)—www.stroke.org
National Aphasia Association (aphasia is language impairment)—www.aphasia.org
American Stroke Association—www.strokeassociation.org
The Stroke Network (offers online support)–www.strokenetwork.org
Carenity (offers online support)—www.carenity.us
American Heart Association (offers support for caregivers and victims)—www.heart.org
Family Caregiver Alliance—www.caregiver.org
Next Step in Care—www.nextstepincare.org
- Lastly, know when it’s time for YOU to take a much-needed break after tending to your loved one’s daily needs as they go through their struggles. You won’t be any good to anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself! So exercise, eat healthy, and do get enough zzz’s.