Setting Goals for a Stroke Survivor
From the Caregiver's Perspective
By Stephanie Mensh
When my husband, Paul Berger, suffered a stroke from a ruptured aneurysm, our lives suddenly changed forever. Our plans, goals, and dreams as individuals and as a couple came to a lurching stop.
We were always positive, future-thinking people, and applied this attitude toward our new challenge--overcoming Paul's speech, language, and physical disabilities resulting from his stroke. We had plans to continue traveling... we had a goal to buy a new house... and we had dreams of a happy, fulfilling, and long life together.
Here are my five tips for caregivers to set goals for your survivor and yourself:
1. Don't say NO, say HOW. We did not see Paul's stroke as a dead end. Instead, as his caregiver, I looked for creative ways to emphasize his strengths, and work around his disabilities. For example, Paul's aphasia makes communication difficult, especially on the phone. With a lot of repetition, Paul can learn new phrases. One of the most helpful phrases that I taught him to say was, "Excuse me, I had a stroke." This lets the other person know they might have to be a little more patient.
2. Independence is key. The most important goal--for Paul, for me as his caregiver, and for our relationship-was to make Paul as independent as possible. The more independent Paul became, the more time and energy I had for other activities. Paul's increasing independence also increased his self-esteem. All of these efforts helped our relationship as a couple.
3. Make short-term plans fit the big picture. Paul's aphasia and right-sided paralysis had left him unable to care for himself. Working with his therapists, we established short-term goals and plans for Paul's rehabilitation and my role as his caregiver that would help move us toward our longer-term personal goals. Our goals included:
Goal 1: Paul taking care of himself
Goal 2: Paul helping around the house
Goal 3: Getting out together
Goal 4: Getting out alone
4. Hire others to help. I was only 32 when Paul has his stroke, and had a career that I did not want to leave. Early in Paul's recovery, when he needed full-time assistance, I hired a companion to drive him to his therapy appointments, help with his home physical therapy exercises and speech homework, run errands for us, and take him to the mall or a park during the day. When I came home from work, we could share the evening together as a couple, and see friends on the weekend.
5. Celebrate. When you achieve one of your goals, and are ready to start on the next, remember to celebrate the accomplishments, no matter how small or large. Stroke survivors and their caregivers--as do so many busy people these days--often become overwhelmed by their day-to-day activities and forget to take some time out to enjoy each other. And remember to celebrate caregiver's achievements, too. Cards, flowers, a small gift, or a special meal at home or at a favorite restaurant can mark your progress.
Copyright (c) Paul E. Berger & Stephanie Mensh
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