Recovering from a stroke is a complex process for anyone - but no one should go through it alone.
Here are 10 pieces of advice for a stroke survivor's loved ones, to help through recovery and rehabilitation.
1) We’re in this together.
My condition is new to all of us, but we're on the same side. Please share your thoughts and feelings with me, so I can feel comfortable doing the same with you.
2) Accept my “new” me.
I went through a life-changing condition, I will face challenges and setbacks, both physically, emotionally, and cognitively. I may seem like the same person but sometimes I'm not. Please, don't try to change me, but to accept and understand me.
3) Get educated.
Get to know what I've been through, understand the medical, cognitive, and emotional conditions that I had, where I am right now, and what the future will bring. I don't have all the answers, but I'm sure we can find great professionals that will assist us.
4) Understand my cognitive decline.
It's really common for someone who had a stroke to experience cognitive impairments. I can be forgetful, lack the ability to hold attention or focus on a mission, struggle with everyday tasks that I used to do without difficulty before. This is natural, sometimes it gets better and sometimes it doesn't. Try to help me find the right strategies and tools so I can manage without being too demanding or dependent.
5) Celebrate my accomplishments.
For me- every single step is progress and even my smallest accomplishment is worth celebrating. Try not to minimize my successes by telling me miracle stories of people who've accomplished things that seem really far off.
6) Don’t blame me.
You can sometimes think I'm not trying hard enough to get well or that I'm "pretending" the challenges. I can promise you I'm doing my best, and it's hard for me too. I'm sorry if I blame you for not supporting me, or thinking you're not trying your best. It's such a prolonged process and I sometimes lose my energy, I'm sure you are too.
7) Don’t be afraid if I’m depressed.
I've lost some of my abilities and any emotional reaction to the loss is normative. Don't try to 'fix' my depression or judge me for being depressed - just give me time and be there for me. Everyone has their own pace in the recovery process.
8) I know it’s hard for you too, and I’m sorry I can’t always help.
It can be really helpful if you try to seek help from outsources: Participate in personal or group therapy, find relevant Facebook groups for families of patients with stroke. You're not alone in it, even though you may feel so.
9) Let’s have quality time together.
It's really hard that we can't do the same activities that we used to do, but that doesn't mean our quality of time and friendship together should suffer. Let's try to think of new activities we can do together, and make suggestions that are appropriate to our current circumstances.
10) Don’t forget yourself in this situation.
I know most of the time you're focused on taking care of me, but you also need to take care of yourself. Make yourself free time to do the things you love without having to worry about me. It will recharge you with energy, and it's as important to me as it is to you.