Caregiver Tips and Resources
Caregivers have a huge role in helping their family members recover and engage in daily activities after a stroke. This role can sometimes be taken unexpectedly and caregivers may feel unprepared and stressed about how to provide the best care for someone. One of the most important things that caregivers need to remember is that in order to care for someone else, you first need to take care of yourself! This page is dedicated to providing caregiver tips and resources including:
- Ways to maintain a health lifestyle and making time for self-care
- Proper body mechanics and positioning during transfers
- Support groups and resources
Healthy Lifestyle and Self-Care
In order to take care of others, it is first important to remember to take care of yourself! Here are some ways that caregivers can maintain a healthy lifestyle and take time to engage in self-care activities:
- Exercise: Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, even if it is only for a short period of time. Encourage your loved one to exercise with you, as it is important for stroke survivors to exercise and stretch throughout their recovery. This will help keep both of you active and healthy as well as promote positive mental health!
- Maintain a healthy diet: Focus on eating a variety of fruits & vegetables, whole grains, and protein-rich foods. Drink plenty of water. Avoid processed snacks and foods that are high in salt, sugar, or unhealthy fats. Eating healthy is also an important part of stroke recovery, so try to cook healthy meals together with your loved one! For ideas of new recipes you can try, check out the American Heart Association's recipes here: https://recipes.heart.org/en
- Schedule time for yourself: Try to do something for yourself each day, such as going on a walk, reading, getting lunch with a friend, listening to music, going on a drive, taking a bath, etc. Write down in a planner or block off time on a virtual calendar and schedule it as your time each day. It is important to make yourself a priority too!
- Make sure to get good sleep: Having quality sleep each night will help you stay healthy, have higher energy levels during the day, and feel less stressed. Try having a set bedtime routine each night with time to relax and avoid being on your phone right before bed, as this will help you fall asleep faster.
- Use mindfulness techniques: If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, try techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, etc. Go to our "Stress Management" page under the Lifestyle tab for more stress management and relaxation techniques that both you and your stroke survivor can try!
- Ask for help: Ask for help when you need it! If possible, arrange for other family members to help you on days where you need a break or need an extra set of hands. You can also consider looking into skilled help such as an aide to come in and assist with the client and other household tasks as needed. Don't be afraid or feel guilty to ask for help, as it shows you care about both your own health and well-being and that of the person you are caring for!
Safe Body Mechanics
It is important that caregivers learn about safe body mechanics when transferring so that they don't put themselves or the person they are caring for at risk of injuries or falls. Safe body mechanics include:
- Use of a gait belt: A gait belt is an assistive device used to help transfer someone. It goes around the person's trunk and allows the person doing the transfer to hold onto the sides and back. This helps prevent falls and decreases back strain.
- Keep your back and neck straight. Do not hunch over as this can hurt your neck and back!
- Bend at the knees and keep weight evenly distributed in both feet, making sure to have a solid base with feet equally spaced apart.
- Make sure that you are close enough to the person.
- Don't let the person you are transferring put their arms around your neck, as they may end up pulling you down.
- Lift up/use force from your legs rather than just pulling up with your arms.
- Do not pull on the person's shoulders or arms, especially if there is a subluxation or hemiplegia. Make sure the arms are out of the way and not in a position where they can get caught.
- When transferring to or from a wheelchair, always make sure it is close enough and level to the surface you are transferring to. Double check to make sure the wheelchair brakes are locked and that the arm and leg rests are out of the way.
- Become familiar with the different types of equipment that can help with transfers such as a slide boards and hoyer lifts.
- Never lift more than you are comfortable with and always ask for help if needed.
Speech and communication deficits are common after a stroke. As a caregiver, it is important to recognize the changes that can occur and understand how to communicate with the stroke survivor. Check out this video from the American Heart Association and The Wellness Network that provides useful information from caregivers and clinicians about the common speech and communication changes and challenges following a stroke along with helpful strategies and tips.
As a caregiver, you may also need to talk with healthcare providers about the patient's care. Important considerations for communicating with healthcare providers include:
- Keep a list of the person's daily habits, medical information, etc. so that you are prepared to talk with the healthcare provider about the person.
- Write down questions you may have prior to any appointments so that you don't forget to ask them.
- If you don't know something about the person's condition, don't be afraid to ask. Always make sure to ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand the information being provided to you so that you can provide the best care!
- Ask healthcare providers for other resources and information about referrals to different disciplines such as speech, occupational therapy, and physical therapy for rehabilitation services.
For more information regarding communication tips for caregivers, check out the "Communication Tips for Caregivers" page on the American Heart Association's website: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/caregiver-support/communication-tips-for-caregivers
Support Groups and Further Resources
- The American Heart Association's Stroke Family Warmline provides over-the-phone support for survivors and family caregivers. Check out the webpage and the video below for more information! https://www.stroke.org/en/help-and-support/for-family-caregivers/stroke-family-warmline
- Caregiver Support Network: The American Heart Association also has an online forum dedicated to connecting caregivers of stroke patients. Go to this webpage for more information and to join the community: https://supportnetwork.heart.org/s/topic/0TO4T000000TY23WAG/caregiver
- Caregiver Guide to Stroke: Practical Tips and Resources for New Caregivers
- Check out this resource from the American Heart Association that includes information about topics included on this webpage and more!