A stroke can be life-changing for you and those around you. The psychological effects of stroke, the sudden change in familial roles and the stress of caregiving can put strain of relationships. But there are some practical things you can do to help.
Lucy Sherman from our Stroke Helpline shares some guidance:
Caring for my loved one has changed our relationship. What can we do to maintain the relationship we had before?
Becoming a carer can significantly change family roles. What was an equal relationship, can become complicated when your loved one needs ongoing support. This can be very unsettling, stressful and overwhelming for all involved.
But setting time aside to do things that put you back into your roles as a couple, parent and child, or friends, rather than carer and cared for, can make a big difference. For example, perhaps you always did the crossword, or watched a football match together.
Finding ways to make your relationship more equal can also help. Such as finding new, more manageable tasks that the person who’s had a stroke can do to help re-build their confidence.
Listen to your loved one and involve them in decisions so they feel like they have some control. For example, even if they can’t make their own lunch, they may still want to choose what they have to eat.
Work out what your boundaries are too. How can you ensure you aren’t being over-protective of a stroke survivor or being taken for granted as a carer? Be honest about your feelings and allow others to do the same.
I get more angry, emotional and low since my stroke and it’s affecting my relationships. What can I do about it?
Emotional and behavioural changes are common after a stroke. You’ll probably find these feelings improve or get easier to manage over time. But if you find your behaviour is impacting on other people, talk to your GP. They can refer you for talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy or counselling with a trained mental health specialist or prescribe medications that can help.
It can be hard for the people around you if they feel you’ve changed. They may also need some support to help them understand what’s happened to you. Talk to them to work out what triggers your behaviour changes and how you can avoid it. You could also agree a word, phrase or sign that your loved ones can use to let you know that you are behaving inappropriately. Or agree that they leave you alone for 15 minutes.
- Talk to each other - Having an honest conversation about what you are both finding difficult is the first step to making changes. Set aside a time to talk when you won’t be interrupted and take it in turns to talk and listen carefully to each other.
- Talk to others - Connecting with people who know what you’re going through can be a big help. Stroke survivor and carer groups are a good way to meet others to get advice and support. Our Here For You service also connects people affected by stroke with trained volunteers who understand.
- Ask for support - Contacting your GP or local authority to find out about services in your area or seeking advice about practical and financial matters can help you feel more in control. Age UK and Citizens Advice can also help you to navigate local services and check what’s available.
For more information and support
Stroke News magazine
This article is featured in the winter 2023 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.