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Finding enrichment and a new sense of purpose when your identity has become that of “caregiver”

PART 1: REHABILITATING BEYOND THE PATIENT


This is the first post in our mini blog series focusing on the challenges of caregiving someone with Aphasia.


As a Speech Language Pathologist, I spend a majority of my focus on my PATIENTS with Aphasia… developing and constantly adapting their treatment programs, trying to find new approaches to assist them in regaining their communication abilities. However, I also try to spend time educating and supporting the CAREGIVERS of my patients…the husbands and wives, daughters and sons, and even mothers and fathers, who have taken on that extra “caregiving” role. However, what will become evident by the end of this article is that the role of “caregiving” takes on many jobs and responsibilities, many of which are unexpected and unplanned. I believe it is important to acknowledge this, especially as a medical professional working with individuals who have Aphasia, further supporting our obligations to be there for our caregivers just as much as we are for our patients.


What can we as Speech Language Pathologists do to support our caregivers?


When we first start seeing someone with Aphasia, we ask them (the patient), as well as the caregiver, what the individual with Aphasia wants to work on – what are their goals for improving communication related to talking, understanding, reading and writing. Why don’t we ask our caregivers what their goals are? Not their goals relating to their loved one improving his/her communication, but what are their goals as a caregiver? What do they themselves want or need, and how can we as SLP’s help to support them along their challenging journey?


Tami Howe and colleagues (2012) looked into exactly that. They conducted interviews with 48 family members to identify goals they themselves wished to receive from Aphasia rehabilitation. When they collected this information, 7 different categories were revealed, and they are ones that I feel we should take the time to further explore and consider when addressing the needs of our patients with Aphasia. The patient is not the only one who needs the support, the treatment, the strategies…our caregivers need the tools to allow them to move forward, taking care of themselves and their loved one.


These 7 categories will be further explored and discussed in a future blog in this series. Up next, the emotional turmoil of being a caregiver will be shared, along with the perspectives from wives caring for their loved ones with Aphasia.


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