Caregiver Stories

Three Wisdoms I’ve Gained Caring for My Stroke Survivor

Post on 14/06/17

The moment Elaine Wee realised she didn’t have to be a “Wonder Woman” was when she became a more wonderful Caregiver to her loved one.  Read on as Elaine reflects.

PhotoOn a recent sunny Saturday morning, I was privileged to attend the inaugural Caregivers Stroke Support Group session organised by the Singapore National Stroke Association (SNSA). The insightful sharing have reminded me of the constant struggles which every caregiver faces and the sacrifices they make to give the best to their loved ones in their daily caregiving. To a caregiver, it has always been to focus on the wellbeing of their loved one who is recovering from a stroke.

During the past 10 years of caring for a stroke survivor, I have learnt many important lessons about myself. I can appreciate life more and feel more positive about myself now. I also learn how to balance the needs of my loved one with my own health and well-being better. These realisations did not come easy. It was after many hours of soul searching and self-reflection.

Lesson 1: Say ‘Yes’ When Your Loved One Offers Help

The first lesson is to realise that I am not a ‘Wonder Woman’ who can do everything alone and I can ask others (including the one I am caring for) for help. I have learnt to be more realistic about what I can take on and to adjust my expectations accordingly. I am holding a demanding full-time job and the sole care-giver to a stroke survivor. At the same time, I am also supporting my elderly parents and in-laws. At first, I tried to take on everything by myself but grew frustrated often when I could not meet the demands of the daily tasks. I often felt tired and my health began to go downhill quickly. After a while, I was unable to function well and care for my loved one. It has also affected our relationship. The turning point came when I accepted the help offered by the one whom I care for. Now, caregiving has become a partnership between me and my loved one. He takes care of me in areas he is best at, while I manage the others.      

Lesson 2: Get Outside Help

The second lesson is that I can seek outside help. With the additional help, I can strike a better balance between my life with my loved one’s needs. The help can come from family members or friends, hired help, respite care, housekeeping services, day care, meal and transportation services, and so on. The quality of my life and my wellbeing as well as my loved one’s have improved tremendously. The best thing that happened to us was when my loved one introduced me to SNSA in 2014. I started to attend their programmes and have learned how to better manage my role as a Caregiver. I feel like I am having a life again.

Lesson 3: Love Myself

Last but not least, I learned that the more I care for myself, the better I can care for my loved one. Previously, I often exhausted myself trying to accomplish many tasks at the same time. The exhaustion did not allow me to provide the patient, loving care I wanted to give to my loved one. I was also disappointed by the unsatisfactory outcomes.

After attending an SNSA workshop for caregivers, I learned that it is not selfish to take time for my personal needs. It is most essential and beneficial to both the Survivor and Caregiver to have ‘ME’ time to do our own activities which we enjoy. With proper planning, I am able to continue with some of my favorite pastimes, such as going to the movies, having afternoon tea with friends, and so on, to recharge my battery. After I make time to talk with friends, I do not feel so frustrated, angry and sad about the massive adjustments I have to make to my lifestyle.

I have also learned not to ignore minor health concerns and to go for regular checkups and health screening. As the sole caregiver to my loved one, I must remain in ‘top form’ to give him the best care possible. I am more patient with myself now and take time to build up my skill sets by attending SNSA workshops, reading the insightful articles available on the website and interacting with fellow caregivers. The knowledge I have gained has boost my confidence as a caregiver and I no longer feel inadequate and fearful of my future. I have learned to laugh in the face of difficult situations and feelings as I believe I deserve to feel joy. Choosing humour has allowed me to see the good things life has to offer me and to appreciate the many blessings in my life.

These three important lessons have allowed me to continue to enjoy my life with my loved one. I am grateful to SNSA for bringing me the joy of fellowship and knowledge. I am now stronger and wiser than before.

By Elaine Wee, Caregiver.

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