Caregiver Stories

5 Practical Insights from a Caregiver

Post on 09/07/16

no-276644_1920The post-stroke life of many caregivers involves practical adjustments. James Teo shares five areas he needed to relook after his mother survived a stroke.


Stroke changes the life of not only the patient himself but the lives of his family. We have to be prepared for these changes, Iook at things in life from a different perspective, and know how to value living.

My mother had a stroke due to her high blood pressure. It affected her right vocal chord, right hand and the right leg. She was hospitalised for a month. During that month, I made frequent visits in the early morning and late evenings after work. I watched her and nursed her, knowing that I could not suffer the pain she was in.

Although I have five sisters and brothers, some could not take turns to stay vigil by her side.

Upon the discharge of my mother from the hospital, questions on “how to care for mum” arose. It was the start of problem-solving together. Many things had to be looked into, such as who was going to look after our mother? How were we going to overcome the financial aspects? Which home was more suitable for our mother to stay in, knowing that she had difficulty walking?

Caring for a stroke patient is hard work. As a stroke caregiver, I would like to share with you all the roles I had experienced, especially for those caregivers of new stroke patients.

1. Division of Responsibilities
Questions may arise as to who is going to take care of different areas pertaining to the inevitable consequences of a stroke. Are you prepared to shoulder the entire burden or are your spouses, children and others willing to help? Can you arrange for others to help? If possible, do this in advance. When my mother was still in hospital, we had regular meetings among her six children. We drew out a milestone chart, showing who was responsible for various roles such as keeping our mother company, consulting the doctor on her progress, and most importantly, looking after her.

2. Your Job
Can you provide quality care and go to work at the same time? Having a stroke survivor in the home can sometimes be very distracting while you are at work. Do you have the kind of relationship with your boss and co-workers such that they allow you some flexibility in scheduling your work? You may even have to consider switching to part-time employment, with part-time help, if you have only one or no sibling.

3. Your Home
My mother could not walk properly as her right leg was affected. As such, we decided it was better to modify her apartment to give her the convenience. For example, the bathroom had to be user-friendly and fitted with railings and non-slip tiles.

4. Your Finances
This was one of the most important factors to be considered when my mother was discharged from the hospital. Although my siblings could provide financial aid, we also had to understand that each had their own financial commitments. Nevertheless, we agreed that each should contribute a sum of money each month to cover the cost of employing a maid and foot the medical bills that were slowly accumulating. My younger sister became our financial controller to receive and record expenses.

5. Your Own Physical and Mental Health
The responsibilities of caring for a loved one can be quite taxing physically and emotionally. We need patience to understand the patient, as depression is a common reaction for them after a stroke. He may become reserved, moody, bad-tempered or appear very unreasonable.

My mother could not speak after her stroke and became very impatient and temperamental because she could not communicate with us, and we could not understand her needs. In the beginning, she had depression as she could not accept the fact that she could not be the same person she used to be. It was not just painful for her but we shared the pain in our hearts too. The doctor advised us to have more patience when dealing with our mother. We had to try to understand what she was trying to tell us every time she opened her mouth.

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Whenever possible, I accompanied my mother on outings and shopping trips as l felt that having social activities for my mother was healthy and would help her to change her outlook of her current situation, thus regaining her confidence in meeting people. I also told myself to have enough sleep and exercise daily to keep fit. If I did not, I was almost certain to suffer burn out.

Finally, the coordination and cooperation among family members, brothers and sisters are very important. Regular meetings among them to share duties and responsibilities of caring for the person are a must.

A patient’s recovery from stroke comes through the support and care of the family members. Very importantly, the patient must feel love and be loved by the family members.

By James Teo, Caregiver.

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