Are you doing your best to help care for a family member after they have suffered a stroke? Is your job made more difficult because, on top of whatever physical problems the stroke has caused, your loved one is depressed? Are you getting depressed by the entire situation? You need to know that depression is not uncommon in stroke survivors and is often the result of biochemical changes in the brain. When the brain has been injured, the affected person may be unable to feel positive emotions. Depression can also be a normal reaction to the physical and mental losses arising from a stroke. The following are some common symptoms of depression:
Persistent sad, “empty,” or anxious mood.
Irritability and restlessness.
Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, pessimism, or guilt.
Decreased interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities.
Loss of energy and increased fatigue.
Difficulty remembering, concentrating, and making decisions.
Early-morning awakening, oversleeping, or insomnia.
Changes in appetite and/or weight.
Thoughts of death or suicide attempts.
Depression will inevitably make the rehabilitation process after a stroke more challenging both for the survivor and the caregiver. However, it’s essential for you not to give in to depression. Studies have shown that caregivers with high levels of self-esteem and optimism can help alleviate a stroke patient’s depression. The following are some tips to help prevent depression in yourself and your affected family member.
Take Care of Yourself
Remember that your loved one needs you to be healthy and strong. So, don’t throw everything into the caregiving effort and neglect your health. Make sure you get plenty of sleep, eat regular and healthy meals, and exercise. Exercise is especially important as studies indicate that it can be as effective in fighting off depression as medication.
Give Yourself Some Breaks
Although taking care of a stroke victim can be time-consuming, be sure to schedule in some solo time just for yourself. By giving yourself a break now and then, you will reduce your stress levels. When you once more put on your caretaker hat, you will be refreshed, calmer, and more productive.
Encourage the Stroke Victim to Stay Social and Active
Although physical limitations and depression can pose considerable challenges to social engagement, it’s important to encourage your loved one to remain active. In spite of the demands of being a caregiver, pushing yourself to be sociable and take part in pleasurable activities will improve your emotional functioning and help prevent depression in yourself.
Help the Patient Identify Things they can Control
It’s easy for a stroke victim to dwell on what they have lost following a stroke. So focus on things that remain within the control of your family member. Emphasize that there are still many aspects of their life that they can be responsible for – taking medication, keeping appointments, socializing with family and friends, and participating in rehabilitation therapy.
Acknowledge What’s Been Lost
As well as concentrating on the positive, it’s also important for both of you to acknowledge and accept whatever has been lost. Negative emotions and grief are a natural part of the recovery process – both for the patient and you – and should not be buried. If either of you has difficulty with this, therapy may be helpful.
Ask for Help
If you feel overwhelmed with the task of taking care of your loved one after a stroke, you don’t have to do it all yourself. At Caring Healthcare, the stress of being a caregiver is something that we know a lot about, and we can take a large part of the caring load off your shoulders. We are here to help relieve you of the burden of caregiving that can impact your physical and mental health. So, if you live in the Columbia, South Carolina area, give us a call.