Caregivers for stroke victims suffer side effects, but resources are available

A stroke can happen in a matter of seconds, but the outcome can be life-changing.

Blood is cut off to the brain, leading to possible weakness, paralysis, or problems with judgment and learning.  Caring for that patient brings its own set of challenges.

A stroke is complicated, causing damage to the brain and it's impact is wide-ranging. But often it impairs someone's ability to communicate - which means,  figuring out how to help navigate the sudden loss of function often falls to family members or loved ones.

Research from the University of Michigan finds that this can cause long-term mental health consequences for the family decision-maker.

"We followed these families in the first year after the stroke and measured levels of symptoms of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress in the family members," said Dr. Darin Zahuranec, U-M Health neurologist. "What we found was that between 20 and 40% of family members experienced high levels of these adverse psychological symptoms.

"This really emphasizes that stroke affects the whole family, and we as healthcare providers need to do a better job of supporting everyone affected by stroke, including family members and loved ones."

The psychological side effects for these caregivers include symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress.

A stroke neurologist who helped lead the Texas-based study says while there is much work to do to support everyone affected by stroke, several available resources can help.

"The American Heart Association website has great resources for family members and loved ones of someone facing a stroke," said Zahuranec. "Also, many local hospitals, including ours, have stroke support groups that can be very helpful resources for family members and patients with stroke."

If you go to you can find a stroke support group finder by entering a zip code.

If you are struggling as a caregiver, remember more than 53 million Americans are caregivers for family members with chronic illness or disability, so you are not alone.