Depression and anxiety are common side effects experienced by many stroke patients. These effects can be heightened due to worries surrounding reintegrating back into everyday life when physical or mental abilities have changed. For these patients, it can be extremely beneficial to remember to attend to their mental health needs.
Psychological care is more about understanding and offering timely support
Dr Posy Knights from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has stated that psychological care is less about ‘fixing’ and more about understanding and offering timely support. Support can come in many forms and is no longer limited to traditional “therapy.” Thus, it is important for patients to realize that they are not alone. Thousands of people around the world have experienced and adjusted to the changed that can occur after a stroke.
Taking an active role in the planning and process of recovery can reduce the possibility of psychological issues and improve outcomes overall. Active roles might include befriending other stroke survivors, volunteering, creative new hobbies, support group attendance, scheduled physical activity, etc.
Psychological care tips for Stroke caregivers
If you are part of a stroke patient’s support system, here are some tips on how to encourage them to take an active role:
- Listen to the patient’s thoughts and make sure the patient is supported by you no matter what. Non judgemental peer and/or family support can be an effective way to support patients with mild depression and anxiety.
- Encourage communication between your loved one and other stroke survivors. Each phase of recovery is different, hearing the stories of others can provide encouragement, understanding or a light at the end of the tunnel. Connection to stroke survivors can be found through online reading, support group participation or through stroke based phone advice lines.
- Promote creative or stimulating activity. It is helpful for patients to remember that they can still keep up with old hobbies or learn new skills. Some activities may include coloring pages, crosswords, making music, RAPAEL Home, board games etc. Patients often feel more self confident and validated in their abilities when they realize that they can continue to complete simple activities by themselves.
- Spend some time in the community. After a stroke, patients may want to hide from the world especially if they are experiencing anxiety or depression. Spending time with your loved one outside of the home and including them in group activities can help to remind them that they belong to a community. Check out the local gym or shopping center, work on gardening tasks, play team games like bowling, visit a movie theater, or just sit at a cafe and people watch. Help them to remember that the things they enjoy are awaiting them.
Little wins add up to Major victories
When working through these tips, don’t forget to acknowledge your loved one’s achievements, not matter how small. It is easy for patients to overlook the small stuff. It can be very motivating when someone else notices. Remember, little wins can add up to major victories. Keep in mind that these strategies are not a substitute for professional assistance. If you feel that your loved one is in danger of becoming seriously withdrawn or suicidal please seek advice from professionals including GPs, nurses, social workers, or therapists.