How to be a Happy Caregiver

Stroke caregivers are happier when they continue to enjoy their own hobbies and interests, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.



Stroke caregivers are happier when they continue to enjoy their own hobbies and interests, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke. Researchers used questionnaires to assess the well-being of 399 family members caring for a stroke survivor after a year. Most of the caregivers were women (69 percent) who were married to the person they were caring for (70 percent). In a two-year follow-up, 80 of the caregivers completed the questionnaires again, and most of their answers remained similar to their initial responses. Researchers found that the happiest caregivers were:

  • older (average age 58) and in better physical health;
  • maintaining their own hobbies and activities;
  • providing higher levels of assistance to stroke survivors; and
  • caring for someone with less cognitive impairment, memory problems or depression.

 

Jill Cameron, Ph.D.

“I was most surprised that caregivers were happier when caring for a family member who survived a more severe stroke,” said Jill Cameron, Ph.D., lead author of the study and an associate professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in the Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Science at the University of Toronto. “But when a stroke is labeled mild, expectations are high and the issues are more subtle. That can cause more frustration because survivors of a mild stroke still have problems.”

Because stroke is a sudden event, survivors can often be home from the hospital just days or weeks afterwards, giving the family caregiver very little time to prepare.

“That might be one reason older caregivers are the most content,” Cameron said. “They’re more likely to be retired and less likely to have to juggle responsibilities of a job and children along with providing post-stroke care.”

Depression, cognitive issues and memory problems in the survivor had a negative impact on the well-being of the caregiver.

The caregiver’s attitude also impacts their happiness. If the caregiver feels they can handle taking care of their family member and that they will grow from the experience, and they continue to take part in activities that interest them, they are happier, she said.

Researchers said learning which factors led to more content caregivers will allow the healthcare system to make adjustments to better support stroke survivors and their families.

“If the family is doing better, that helps the patient do better,” Cameron said.

See full press release

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AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Stroke Family Warmline

The Warmline connects stroke survivors and their families with an ASA team member who can provide support, helpful information or just a listening ear. We have trained several members of ASA's national call

Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

Let's Talk About Stroke is a series of downloadable patient information sheets, created by the American Stroke Association, that presents information in a question-and-answer format that's brief, easy to follow and easy to read.

Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

The Caregiver Guide to Stroke is meant to help caregivers better navigate the recovery process and the financial and social implications of a stroke.

Tips for Daily Living Library

This volunteer-powered library gathers tips and ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals all over the country who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!

Stroke Support Group Finder

To find a group near you, simply enter your ZIP code and a mile radius. If your initial search does not pull up any groups, try
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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