From our own experience: much of your recovery will occur in the first six months or so after the stroke, so work as hard as you can during that period. It's the last thing you feel like you can do, but it's very important. But also, you will continue to improve for years! Don't give up, and don't let anyone to tell you that your recovery is over.
It can be terribly depressing at first, after your stroke. Your life is shattered and turned upside down. Your body and mind are suddenly not your own. You don't know what to do, and your loved ones are just as worried and confused. Here are some things to remember:
You WILL get better, in many ways dramatically so.
There are others who have gone through what you are experiencing. They can be a great help and support. Coming to a support group like ours can be a great inspiration.
Work as hard as you can on your rehab. You will see encouraging progress.
Keep a list of milestones, no matter how small they seem. It is uplifting to look back on these as you recover.
Take time to relax and have fun, too. It's important to go for a drive, get out, visit the zoo, whatever you can do.
Advice for Caregivers
The caregiver's world is turned upside down just as much as the stroke survivor's is, only you have the additional burden of having to take care of all the practical details too. It is frightening to see your loved one suddenly turn into another person, sometimes entirely unlike their former selves, perhaps unable to do many of the things they used to. You can feel resentment and ambivalence about taking care of this new person, and your relationship may change dramatically.
Here are some thoughts for you from people who have been there:
It is a grieving process to let go of the person you used to know. You may need counseling and a long time for that wound to heal.
Encourage your loved one to regain their independence. It is often easier to do things yourself, but work with them to relearn. Engage them in this process and explore solutions with them. This will give them dignity and also encourage their participation.
You will have a lot of paperwork to deal with. Keep this organized in a separate binder for when you need it.
Deal with the difficulties one day or one moment at a time. Don't become overwhelmed by your imagination.
Provide a model and act as a mirror for your loved one's recovery. Be the kind of optimistic and capable person you want them to be.
Get the support you need, from family, friends, church. Learn how to accept help. Tell people specifically what you need.
Don't take things personally. Your loved one may be neglectful or cruel at times for reasons they cannot control.
Don't overload your loved one with information. They may be struggling with communication, comprehension, or memory. Keep things simple, and you may need to repeat them often.
Don't neglect the others in your life, including yourself, in your devotion to the stroke survivor. Take care of yourself (including time off), and spend time with other family members, friends, and community.
Don't stop planning for the future. This buoys everyone up.
Being a caregiver requires patience and love by the bushel. You may find that you have more of this than you ever thought possible. Give yourself a chance to rise to the challenge.