Action on Stroke Month: Supporting the Family of a Stroke Sufferer
May is National Stroke Awareness Month, which plays an important role in helping give both care assistants and the general public alike an understanding of the effects a stroke can have on a person.
As a care assistant, you may find yourself working with stroke patients and playing a vital part in helping them recover from the effects of their stroke. However, it’s often easy to forget the devastating effect a stroke can also have on the patient’s family.
Whether you’re simply offering a listening ear, or offering valuable insights based on your skills, experience and training, there are several ways you can help the family adjust to the changes they will face when a family member is afflicted by a stroke.
Watch for signs of depression
The sudden nature of strokes mean that family and friends won’t have had a chance to prepare for the situation. They will still be processing their feelings as they contend with the hospitalisation and recovery of their loved one. They may feel shock, frustration, guilt, anger and grief – or a mixture of all of these and more.
The strain a stroke takes on family members can lead them towards health risks of their own such as high blood pressure, heart disease and depression. This can affect their ability to care for their loved one, may cloud their judgement, and see them getting anxious, frightened and frustrated.
As a diligent care professional, it’s important to be vigilant, and look out for the tell-tale signs of depression in family members, such as tiredness, anger and a lack of self care, even if they try and ‘put on a front’ in your presence. Being able to identify when someone is struggling with these issues – and referring them for further support – can often be the lifeline they need to get through this difficult situation.
Be prepared to listen
When you’re working alongside a family going through this kind of adjustment, they may look to you for guidance and support. Be prepared to listen to them, allow them to talk to you about their feelings, and even offer them advice from your own professional experience. Simply being a shoulder to cry on can often make a huge difference to people in these situations.
Point them towards information and support groups
Many family members will feel isolated and alone, particularly once a patient has returned home for their post-stroke recovery. Look for opportunities to point them towards online information, professional resources and support groups that will connect them to a wider community, help them learn, and make them feel more supported.
Identify gaps in their skills
After a stroke patient is discharged from hospital and returns home, it can cause great emotional stress to loved ones who suddenly find themselves taking on the responsibilities of caregiving. They may feel out of their depth, and could find caring a difficult adjustment. Especially when the stroke patient may have previously been the main caregiver in the house.
For a skilled care professional working closely with a stroke survivor, you’ll often be well placed to assess how well a family member is adjusting to their new responsibilities. And no matter how hard they’re working to improve and be a strong caregiver, they’ll likely have gaps in their knowledge.
Remember, this is no reflection on them. After all, they’re doing a job unpaid, around the clock, that you have trained for years to do, and some will adjust quicker than others. This is where being able to compassionately help them develop better strategies to improve their care skills is invaluable. It will help them not only cope better with the situation but will lead to a better overall quality of life for the stroke patient.
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