Vail Caregiver: Damage done by strokes hard to predict
VAIL, Colorado -There is a saying that ‘no two strokes are the same.’ When a loved one has a stroke, no one can tell you with absolute certainty what the future holds. Such was the case when my grandmother had a stroke 30 years ago, and even though we know much more now, recovery is still unpredictable today.My mother and her twin sister always seemed to be caring for one family member or another as I was growing up. And so it wasn’t surprising that when my grandmother needed a caregiver, they took over. My aunt came from Iowa to help when my mother was exhausted. They took turns for months at a time, caring for her and helping with her physical therapy. The doctors had prepared them for the physical ordeal of rehabilitation, but no one understood the emotional effects of a stroke at that time. After nearly a year of struggling to keep my grandmother from giving up, they finally had to put her in a nursing home. She died shortly thereafter. Doctors cannot predict how permanent any disabilities will be or what can be improved through therapy, so the first focus is on the physical effects of a stroke. Today we know that even with a minor stroke, a patient will probably have some cognitive limitations and emotional issues. That’s where caregiving becomes more challenging. Those issues are much more invisible and difficult to address than physical limitations. Dealing with depression, bouts of crying or laughing, impulsiveness and change of personality may require professional help. Stroke is a leading cause of disability and death among older people, making early identification of risks important so that preventative measures can be taken. According to a new study published in the February issue of Neurology, people who experience memory loss or a decline in their thinking abilities may be at higher risk of stroke, regardless of whether or not they have been diagnosed with dementia. Stroke occurs in all age groups, in both sexes, and in all races in every country. It can even occur before birth, when the fetus is still in the womb. Some of the most important treatable risk factors for stroke are high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, heart disease, history of stroke and diabetes. If you suspect a stroke because of sudden changes in speech, movement or sensory abilities, get immediate help. Call 911 – early medical intervention reduces the severity of long term disabilities.Caregiving requires great inner strength. No one can be strong all the time when sleep-deprived, overworked, under-appreciated, frustrated and lonely. Caregivers need to seek help early and often, both for their loved ones and for themselves. Join a support group, go online to American Stroke Association (www.strokeassociation.org) or contact Eagle County Information & Referral/Assistance Services. This service provides area residents with the needed information on how to access local, regional and statewide services for seniors. Contact Care Manager Grant Jackson at 970-328-8836 The Eagle County Caregiver Support Group meets on the second Tuesdays of each month. Tuesday’s meeting is at Ti Amo Ristorante, 40928 US Highway 6 in Eagle-Vail. Come at 5 p.m. and enjoy a relaxed dinner and support from other caregivers. All caregivers are welcome.For more information about the Caregiver Support Group or to RSVP to a meeting call Pat Nolan at 970-471-9245 or Grant Jackson at 970-328-8836.
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