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American Stroke Association offers tips for caregivers

May 7, 2012 SPRINGFIELD — When a loved one suffers a stroke, it can be overwhelming for family members who will most likely become the caregivers. Time out for caretakers is essential. Those who try to wait for all of the chores and responsibilities to their loved one to be finished, may be waiting a long time. To help caregivers get started on finding time for themselves, the American Stroke Association suggests to these things regularly. Top 10 things you need to do regularly: 1) Get regular physical activity. Regular, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is a good energizer that reduces stress, helps keep blood pressure and cholesterol at heart-healthy levels and helps maintain healthy weight. Aim for 30 minutes a day which can be broken down to 10- or 15-minute sessions. 2) Eat heart-healthy foods. They give you more energy, keep your brain fed (which helps combat depression) and help prevent other health problems. If you have to "eat on the run" choose nutritious snacks. 3) Take time every day for an activity that you enjoy such as reading, listening to music, crafts, cooking — whatever makes you happy and relax. 4) Keep humor in your life. Laughter is good medicine. Find the humor in your situation when possible. Watch a silly TV program or pop in a comedy movie. Find things to laugh about with your loved ones. Laughter quickens the pulse rate, stimulates the blood circulation, activates muscles, increases oxygen intake and helps you relax. 5) Get out once a week and go somewhere enjoyable. Visit the local coffee shop, attend church events, take a class, visit a friend or just wander around the mall or a park. If your loved one needs constant attention, ask for help. You can find someone to give an hour a week to let you get out. 6) Treat depression and stress. Recognize signs and symptoms and do something about it as soon as it starts. If you think you may be depressed, get professional help, talk about it and admit your feelings. 7) Take care of your business. Keep your checkbook balanced, work when you need to, spend times with friends and family and don't stop planning for the future. If you live totally "in the moment" of your caregiver responsibilities, you'll find it more difficult to re-integrate into life later on. Keep living. 8) Keep all your medical and dental appointments. Do all you can to keep from getting sick. If you're sick, you won't be able to do what your loved one needs. Ask for help when you need it and take care of your health. 9) Think positive. Take time every day to refresh your mind. Admit your limitations. Let go of the guilt. Admit if you are angry. Pat yourself on the back for the job you're doing. If you are feeling guilty or angry, take a break. 10) Stay connected with the outside world, even if it's just by phone or online. Don't isolate yourself. Talk to friends about something other than your situation. Stay interested in what would be going on in your life if you weren't care giving. It's still there and you're still a part of it. Each year, an estimated 795,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke, killing 137,000 people. That means, on average, a stroke occurs every 40 seconds. Forty percent of stroke victims are men and 60 percent are women. For more tips, tools and support, or to find out more about stroke, visit www.strokeassociation.org. Bookmark and Share

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