Yesterday, my wife flew to the Grand Canyon with her mother and a sister. That is a red letter day for the Dunham's. This is the first time since my strokes 3 and a half years ago that I am alone with the responsibility to take care of our son.
My wife is a saint. When my strokes happened, she took charge. She handled every minute detail, keeping visitors at bay, juggling a scared 6 year old boy with little help, and dealing with a barrage of people wanting any and all news.
|Dunham's in the hospital: January 27, 2012|
After my strokes and when I came home from the hospital after 18 days, she had to continue a hectic pace. Reassuring everyone including me that I would be OK even when she wasn't sure. She had to drive me to countless appointments and have a semblance of a "normal" life for our son.
I cannot imagine what her life was like. People keep saying that I was so strong. SHE was the strong one. When people cried about me, SHE was the shoulder to cry on. It should have been the other way around.
She had to grapple with the miasma of emotions, financials, unknown passwords, insurmountable paperwork for disability and Social Security, helping with our son's homework and trying to figure out our life.
I am so grateful that my wife, Heather Saxton Dunham, had the courage to stick by me when I gave up on myself. My recovery or "my new normal" is because of her.
Since my strokes, I have been appointed to be on the Board of the American Heart and Stroke Association. Because of my strokes, I have researched about caregivers.
Also, the National Stroke Association has some great tips about caregivers like my wonderful wife:
Caregiving is often described as the most difficult job you never applied for. A stroke in the family can cause many shifts, whether it is relationship dynamics, finances, home modifications, or role changes.
As a spouse, sibling, child, grandchild, or friend, you may be charged with new tasks, such as providing daily assistance and support, plus planning, and facilitating your loved one’s care. Because stroke is sudden and unexpected there is often little or no time to prepare. No matter when or how your role as a caregiver begins, it can be a challenging job that takes a physical, mental and emotional toll.
Caregivers play an important role throughout the post-stroke recovery process starting from day one. Caregivers can be a family member, friend, neighbor and/or a healthcare professional. We have developed numerous resources to help you on this new journey.
Caring for stroke survivors can cause high levels of emotional, mental, and physical stress for both the stroke survivor and caregiver. In addition to distress, disruption of employment and family life makes caregiving very challenging. Family caregivers can promote positive post-stroke recovery outcomes; however, they need to care for themselves as well.