St. Mark's Hospital - June 21, 2019

If a loved one has recently had a stroke and you’ve taken on a caregiver role, you may feel out of your element. Here are five things to know that can make your job easier.

1. Help is available. Stay in close contact with your loved one’s medical team during and after a hospital stay. Hospital social workers can help with things like completing paperwork, arranging rehab services, acquiring needed medical equipment and locating support groups.

2. Stroke survivors are at a high risk of having another stroke. Encourage your loved one to eat healthy food, exercise at least 150 minutes a week and take prescribed medications. Don’t brush off falls. If your loved one falls more than twice in a six-month period, consult a doctor or physical therapist for help.

3. Depression after a stroke is common. Up to half of stroke survivors experience depression during recovery. Keep an eye out for symptoms like anger, frustration, anxiety, sadness, fear and hopelessness. Talk to a healthcare provider if you suspect a problem.

4. Learn all you can about your loved one’s medical coverage. Insurance plans can have confusing rules about how they cover hospital charges, rehabilitation and other expenses. Ask the insurance carrier to explain coverage. If a bill isn’t covered that you think should be, file an appeal.

5. Being a caregiver can be exhausting and overwhelming. It’s OK to ask family or friends to step in and give you a break to go for a long walk, see an afternoon matinee or get a pedicure. Taking care of yourself ensures you have the energy to support your loved one. So, be sure to eat well-balanced meals, exercise when possible and get plenty of sleep.

Storage space. Turns out, there are no limits to how much a healthy brain can learn or know. While lack of sleep can impair your brain's ability to process or retain information, your brain has an endless amount of data storage available. If only you could say the same about your smartphone!