Here are the first three things you as a caregiver need to do in the first three days after a family member suffers a stroke or TBI. No one is ever ready. We all think these things happen to others, but not to us. However, stroke occurs once every 90 seconds in the United States. 1.7 million people sustain a Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI each year in the U.S.
You may be reading this because stroke or TBI has happened to someone in your family. I am so sorry for your sorrow. My husband had a massive and totally unexpected stroke in 1991. I have been in your shoes. I remember how it feels to experience this shock.
Looking back on our event now, the following suggestions are the three things that I wish someone had helped me with in those first two-three days of the decision making process. And yes, all of a sudden enormous decisions are facing you. How does one make decisions with no wisdom or experience? That was the most frightening thing for me!
Remembering that fear, that uncertainty, and how it seemed to put my brain in a dark fog was my biggest issue. I felt I could not think!
The first thing to do: Let Go of Fear
|So here is my first suggestion – know that fear is ONLY fear. In itself, it cannot do anything to you unless you let it stop you from thinking. Collect all your fear, and put it in your back pocket. You don’t need it right now. You need a clear brain. How does one put fear aside? It is about awareness. Now that I have told you about not needing fear, say to yourself, “Oh, I see that I am full of fear.” Once you acknowledge it, you are making a choice to either think in spite of fear, or let fear think for you. Guess what, fear cannot think. It is merely an emotion. When you realize that, your thoughts have already conquered your fear. Now you can set fear aside and think clearly.
Another trick is to imagine that your fear is a helium balloon on a string in your hand. Go outside in nature and imagine opening your hand and letting that fear float away.
If fear steps back in, set it aside again. You are too busy to be bothered with it. Let go of fear, an emotion that does not serve you.
The second thing to do: Educate Yourself
The second thing to do in the next 2-3 days, is to find the paperwork from your insurance policy that you have most likely never looked at. Then find one of those many tote bags that you have been given in the past years, and put all insurance information inside that tote bag. Put that in your car and keep it close at hand. Make use of the time in hospital waiting rooms to educate yourself. Every second that you spend learning something, is time spent keeping the fear in your back pocket. Reading will help calm your nerves and take your mind off the emergency that is in the next room. Remember, you will be the advocate for your loved one. You will need a full quiver of solution arrows at the ready.
If you find reading challenging, listen to podcasts on information about the family member’s health issue from your cell phone or tablet computer. Knowledge makes for the strongest decision making. Breathe and learn. Here’s a link to the Hand in Hand Show where there are many such podcasts. https://handinhandshow.com
The third thing to do: Trust Your Decisions
The third thing to do in the next 2-3 days is to remind yourself that the decisions you are making are based only on the information that you have right NOW. You cannot see the future, there is only right now. Make decisions on what seems right at this moment. Know that there is absolutely no better decision to be made. If in the future, you learn there is a different way to handle something, make a new decision. That new decision will be based on the new information you might have in the future. This is about trusting your instincts. Trust in your faith.
If you are making the decisions with other immediate family members such as adult children or another parent, then you can choose to make those decisions together. Others outside of that immediate circle cannot judge you. Believe in yourself.
I hope my three suggestions have helped you today. I’ll be back with more suggestions for you in a few days. For now, be at peace. Let go of fear, educate yourself, and trust your decisions.
For more information about my book, see my personal website at
Nancy is on Twitter @wecknan
© 2017 Nancy Weckwerth
the online place for Caregivers, Stroke and TBI Survivors