When the person first has a stroke it not only affects them but it also affects family and close friends as well. There maybe sudden changes, stress and uncertainty for everyone.
Friends and family may want to help but are unsure of what to do or say. There may be awkwardness. As the main carer you will need support just as much as the person who has had the stroke. When friends and family offer to help you, take help. Even if you are feeling fine now there may be times when you do need a break or someone to just come and sit with the person so you can do other tasks.
- Be yourself Friends and family should be encouraged to be as normal as possible with you and the person who had the stroke. Be encouraging but realistic when progress may be slow. Make sure they are not being over protective and doing too much for the person without allowing them time to attempt to do things for themselves.
- Small tasks Family and friends may be able to help by taking some of the pressure off you, the main carer by doing some of the essential but mundane tasks so you can have a break or concentrate on the tasks which only you can do.
- Socialise Try to maintain friends and family as normal social contacts as well. The person may not be able to do all the social activities they use to do at first but gradually they will be able to take part in family occasions, parties and events. If it is difficult for the person to go out to socialise, try to ask close friends to visit you. A few close friends or family at first because the person may be overwhelmed by a lot of people initially. Talking about normal things rather than just illness is a way to return to your social life.
- Explain frustrations Make friends and family aware if the person takes out their frustration on you or them, this is often because of the sudden loss of function caused by the stroke and should improve with time and patience.
- Carer Organisations Carer organisations offer advice not only to the main carer but also to family and friends of anyone affected by stroke. Being in contact with other stroke carers can be very valuable because some one else knows what you are going through.
- In good and bad times Some friends and family may lose touch or distance themselves and this can be difficult and sad for the person who had the stroke and also for you. Not everyone can accept and move on but it is important to do this and look for other sources of support and make new contacts. You cannot change what other people do, only what you do. Close friends will rally round and some will instinctively know the best way to give you support.
- Practical help If the person has been given rehabilitation goals or exercises to do, involve friends and family by showing them how to supervise or help the person as they are doing these tasks. By doing this they can also encourage and eventually see progress being made.
- Little ones Younger members of the family, especially smaller children need information about what a stroke means too. They may be frightened or confused by what has happened. Be honest but simplify information for them. Try using the CHSS information for children.
Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Advice Line is available to anyone affected by stroke 0808 8010899 (this is a free phone number from UK landlines and most mobile networks) The CHSS website has information on all stroke related topics. Try using the CHSS Children’s Resources information. This has basic information about stroke for children of all age groups. Colouring books “When Dad was ill” or “When Mum was ill” for small children. Comic book style information for older children or teenagers. Available from the stroke ward or from CHSS stroke nurses or contact CHSS on 0131 225 6963.