Five years ago my life changed forever. I entered the role of family caregivers. My life partner of 24 years suffered an event that changed both of our lives. He suffered an ischemic stroke. Actually two strokes. This type of stroke is when a clot dislodges and travels to stop or slow blood flow to the brain, depriving brain tissue of oxygen. The brain cells start to die immediately.

Role of Family caregivers

At age 67 he still thought his health was good, not perfect, but manageable. We were active, bike riding when we could, eating healthily, comfortable in retirement. The bad news was he ignored the symptoms in previous days, even the day of the stroke. He felt tired, was presenting to a group of people and found his writing was messy, and later in the day felt his face was not right. These are key symptoms of a stroke and he didn’t share them with me until mid day the next day.

At this time his day was normal. “I think I have had a stroke.” I’ll never forget those words. Right away I took him to emergency and started our ordeal. An immediate cat scan showed he did have a clot in the area. Too late for any clot busting procedures to be taken. We lived within 2 miles of the hospital, and were asked to go home and return if any symptoms re-appear. Well, five hours later we were back, he didn’t feel right overall. He was omitted right away. They quickly inverted his body, head lower than rest of body so more oxygen could be driven to the brain. Another cat-scan. I left him in good care I thought, and went home.

In the morning when I returned, things had gotten worse. He had another stroke, much more significant, paralyzing the left side of his body. The stroke affected the right side of the brain, motor skills, extremities, speech. I was shocked but couldn’t show it. He was cognitive and wasn’t happy with his situation. Emotions rode high, he cherished forgiveness and gratitude, something he hadn’t shown in the past. He didn’t want to believe he was in this condition, he lost over 30 pounds. His speech was only slightly affected, given a few days improved, and back to normal.

As a new caregiver I jumped into action, we discussed Power of Attorney, and had to update his, we found a notary public who would come to the hospital and do this service. We were unsure of his future at this time. I took him immune boosting supplements daily with a whole fruit shake, and he enjoyed this more than the hospital food.

After 2 weeks, he was moved to a rehabilitation hospital to start the process of learning how to walk again, and physio therapy for his upper body. My daily visits helped to strengthen his emotions and keep him from going into a depression, he no longer walked, he no longer had use of his right hand, his writing hand, and had to receive help from others in his daily care, something he had never endured before. At this time, I had to relocate our living arrangements to a walk up door, and ease of daily needs such as washroom. Luckily, we had recently downsized and were happy with that. Six weeks here enabled him to come home with a cane.

Daily routine was almost normal, although he needed help in dressing, I was the sole driver now, and he was taken to daily outpatient therapy for the next year. He was fearful of crowds, wouldn’t try to improve his situation other than going to therapy. This started to impact our discussions, our value to each other. Every discussion was about what he wasn’t doing. I often went out on my own, I needed a break. He finally took it on to learn to walk down stairs on his own and get back behind the wheel of a vehicle again. Confidence was building but it was a long time coming.

Fast forward to five years from the date of the stroke, and I am still the caregiver, he is still reliant on my assistance as he doesn’t have the use of his right hand and full movement of the arm. We are still at odds on his progress but I have realized that it is him that needs to be in control, and I am there as his caregiver to understand this and support what his future will be, in whatever state it will be.

Resources are available for caregivers, reach out to us.

Join us at our Empowering Family Caregiver Expo on October 5, 2019.

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