A response to a person new to caregiving, trying to figure out what to do while at the same time, grieving what has been lost.
I have been the caregiver to my husband for 10 years.In those early years, I regularly reminded myself who he had been before the stroke–vibrant, sharp, fun, funny, successful–all things that the stroke took away from him.It was important for me to remember those things and treat him like that person, not as a victim or an invalid.Even though he was terribly disabled, our interaction was always about working toward a new normal that valued a good man.
One thing that really helped us was setting goals together.Setting goals allowed us to look forward and move forward.Yes, I took care of his needs, but working together on recovery and a useful life was essential. We got excited each day to see what he could do.We did not focus on what we lost.We focused on the new life we were creating.It wasn’t easy.We also had kids at home who needed mom and dad.I like to think one day they will reflect on those years and know what love and commitment really look like.
My husband deserved the best I had to give.In return, he gives his best.I hope you, the team, and your friend can rally and help him create a meaningful life.It isn’t easy but it is worth doing.Good luck.
According to a study released at the International Stroke Conference, gender plays a role in a caregiver’s health. The study revealed that women, especially those caring for their spouses, were much more likely to develop serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Women Are More At Risk
In general, female caregivers are more at risk for serious health conditions than their male counterparts. They report higher incidences of depression and anxiety and lower levels of well-being and life satisfaction. Female caregivers are also more likely to experience chronic disease, an increased risk of cancer, diminished immune system, and physical ailments such as acid reflux and headaches.
Studies indicate that the increased health risks may be associated with how women are wired. Female caregivers tend to have more of an emotional attachment to caregiving than their male counterparts.
Marriage Impacts Stress And Health
Providing care for your spouse can also put you at a higher risk for developing serious and chronic health conditions. The study released at the International Stroke Conference found that spousal caregivers and caregivers of the opposite sex of those they were providing for tended to experience a greater decline in health.
Spouses are particularly prone to burnout and health risks because caregiving can cause significant changes in the dynamics of the marital relationship. Plus, since you live together, you don’t get breaks from caregiving.
The study also indicated that the women who cared for their spouses tended to be at greater risk than men who cared for theirs.
Other Factors Compound The Risk
Some female caregivers are more susceptible to developing health issues than others. The study found other factors influenced the risk, including:
• Length of caregiving
• Difficulty of caregiving tasks
• Perceived impact on caregiver’s life
What You Can Do
Although female caregivers are at greater risk for developing health issues, providing care for a stroke survivor can have an impact on men, too. The National Alliance for Caregiving states that nearly half of the caregivers they surveyed indicate that their health has gotten worse as a result of caregiving.
Take these steps to alleviate stress and protect your health:
• Ask for help from family and friends
• Join a support group
• Take time for yourself to visit with friends or enjoy a hobby
• Arrange for respite care
• If married, focus on the positive aspects of caregiving on relationship
• Schedule regular physical check-ups for yourself
• Exercise and meditate
One out of three caregivers suffers from depression!
Caring for a stroke survivor can command a heavy burden. Family members account for four out of five caregivers, and loved ones who care for survivors face a high risk of depression.
Who Has the Higher Depression Rate?
One out of three caregivers suffers from depression, a rate higher than stroke survivors themselves. Survivors often require 24-hour care, which can lead caregivers to experience high amounts of stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, and depression.
In addition to the demands of caring for a stroke survivor, caregivers commonly develop depression because of a lack of time for themselves, being confined to the home, changes in the survivor’s personality, and constant objection from the survivor.
Caregivers aren’t just tasked with aiding a stroke survivor with physical and cognitive functions. And the more demanding the care or severity of the stroke, the higher the rate of depression. Responsibilities can include:
• Managing family finances
• Coordinating additional care and appointments
• Independently maintaining house chores and cooking
• Providing emotional support for a survivor
Causes of Caregiver Depression
Despondency can also hinder the daily tasks related to caregiving as well as general day-to-day activities, according to a recent study presented to the American Heart Association. A diminished ability to adapt to negative life changes is another symptom of overwhelmed caregivers—that includes the difficult responsibility of caring for a stroke survivor, as well as the negative health and emotional impacts of dedicating a large majority of time to caring for someone else.
Caregivers with signs of depression shouldn’t go unnoticed. Some of the common symptoms include fatigue, weight fluctuation, self-loathing, and irritability. If you or a caregiver you know is showing signs of depression, be sure to contact a doctor.
Not only should a depressed caregiver seek treatment to improve their well-being, but it can also be beneficial for the stroke survivor for their caregivers to be healthy and happy. Another study presented at the International Stroke Conference in 2013 states that a caregiver’s positive self-esteem and attitude may in turn improve the stroke survivor’s depression and optimistic outlook.