Monday, December 8, 2014

Written for American Stroke Association by Denise McEwen

I’m a caregiver.

It’s not something I ever thought I would be. I don’t even think I had heard that term before I became one. My husband, Mark, suffered a terrible stroke and in an instant OUR lives changed forever. The strong man I married couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk and couldn’t take care of his family like he had anymore. I had to become the caregiver.

No choice.

But how we deal with what we’re given IS a choice.

My advice for caregivers:

  • Don’t ever, ever give up. Rehabilitation can be long and hard on everyone but it does work. 
  • Don’t listen to naysayers and listen to what the doctors say with a bit of a grain of salt. I was told what functionality Mark had back by six months would be it, and at five and a half months, I was frantic. He still continues to get better and better. I was also told he would never get his ‘old’ voice back. He’s 99% there! 
  • Celebrate small accomplishments. The first time my husband walked just half a hallway I carried on like we had just won the lottery. We still have on tape the day he got rid of his walker. And the first time he drove (just to the kids’ playground) brought tears of joy. 
  • Take time for you. I had to drive Mark to rehab every day, so I found a gym close by with childcare. We both were rehabbing at the same time. It was one of the best things I could do for ME. 
  • Keep what you can the same. This was so important, especially for our children. Mark had his stroke in November. I still had Thanksgiving at our house (and then took a plate to him). Christmas was as big and bright as always. 
  • Cry. It’s a great release. Cry alone, cry with friends. Then buckle up. This will not defeat or define you. 
  • Pray. Someone is listening! 
  • And know you are not alone. Reach out to other caregivers. Reach out to me!

Mark’s website is Click on the Contact Mark link and what you write comes to me.

Denise McEwen

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