Hosted By

Sherry L. Pierce
Author of "I'M OK"




About Caregiving

To read
"Advice to Family and Friends"
by Duane Pierce

To read
"Perspective From  a 
Family Member/Caregiver
by David Schell

To read
"Help For Victims
and Their Caregivers
by Tracy O'Grady, R.N.

To read
"Our Caregivers"
by Sherry Pierce



Duane Pierce
Chief Warrant Officer
United States Army
(Sherry's brother)

    Two years ago, my sister, (Sherry Pierce), suffered a stroke that left her in many people's eyes disabled. 

    She is not disabled, but she does have physical limitations. I would like to give the following advice to Family and Friends of people who have suffered an injury or illness that resulted in your "Loved One" becoming physically or mentally limited: 

    1. Do not treat your "Loved One" like a child unless they are a child.

    2. Continue to include your "Loved One" in all the activities you used to.  That said, always remember their physical/mental limitations.

    3. When talking about your "Loved One's" injury/illness to other people in their presence, remember that in most cases, they have not lost their hearing, even if they have lost their speech.

    4. Let your "Loved One" be as independent as they can possibly be. They will let you know when they need help.

    5. Be forgiving when your "Loved One" gets frustrated at you. Sometimes people are hardest on the one's they love the most.

    6. Last but not least, Communicate with your "Loved one".

    Very Respectfully,
    Duane Pierce
Sherry's Brother


David Schell
(Sherry's Stepfather)

    Any serious or sudden debilitating illness not only impacts the patient, but it has immeasurable effects on the immediate family. Especially if they are going to become primary caregivers, once the patient has recovered enough to be released from critical care.

    Most of us in the general public aren�t medical professionals. But, when a serious medical crisis, such as a stroke, occurs to our loved one, we are lost. In most cases, we are guided through the initial stages of this horrifying event by capable medical professionals. Neurologists, neurosurgeons and others help us to comprehend what has happened. As in the case of a stroke, it happens so quickly. But it takes much more time after this tragedy to determine what the outcome will be. And even then, our highly talented and most capable medical professionals can�t give us any answers. Especially the ones that we want to hear.

    We always want to hear that everything will be okay. That everything will be just like it used to be. Then reality hits you. Everything is not going to be the same. But, this doesn�t mean that everything is not going to be okay.

    When the realization sets into the caregiver, that your stroke victim loved one isn�t going to be the same old person they used to be, well�that�s a tough time. But, love prevails. We are ready, able and willing to do whatever it takes. Our loved one is the most important thing in our life. At this point. jobs, appointments, material things, all takes a back seat. Oh, sure there are the sniffling, weak minded, self-centered types who can�t cut it. Those people that shirk off their responsibilities all through out life. You know, the ones that never come through for you. And if there is any of those types reading this, you know whom you are. And I say get lost now! Run away and don�t look back, because you are the worst thing in the world to have around a recovering stroke patient.

    Victims suffering from a brain injury need positive influences in their every day lives. People that love them for the "new" person that they have become. Caregivers that can help them adapt to their physical deficits. Caregivers that can encourage them. Caregivers that can help them with things like physical therapy on a daily basis. Caregivers that can applaud them when they make the slightest improvement. It may only be the wiggle of a toe, but you cannot imagine the concentration and effort that it took to accomplish something that most of us take for granted.

    Get involved as much as possible with the therapy process, be it occupational, physical or speech. The more you know, the better caregiver you will be.

    In regards to the issue of therapy, as far as the recovery process, of the stroke patient goes, just remember the key word�. Therapy�Therapy�Therapy. It�s something that was a whole new experience for me. I never really considered for instance how many muscle actions it takes to just take one step. And then how many brain cells it takes to control those actions. When those brain cells are gone or damaged to a high degree, it takes intense therapy, guided by a capable professional, on a regular basis for quite some time in order for the recovery process to reach maximum benefit. Don�t let your resolve slip into discouragement mode to the patient. Keep a positive and encouraging attitude.

    I think that many of us would be very surprised when we realize how restrictive our health care insurance might be. Your benefit plan restricts the amount of time that a person could get inpatient therapy, and then also sets time limits on outpatient care. So, try to learn as much as you can because in time, you may be the "outpatient therapist".

    And as the physical deficits aren�t enough to deal with, hang on, because you�re going for a ride! You just got an all day pass on the "emotional roller coaster"! It makes the scariest ride at the amusement park at the look like a trolley ride.

    My experience with brain injury has been limited to one person, my stepdaughter, Sherry Pierce. Our relationship is positive, and I could not be more proud of her determination, confidence, and genuine desire to leave the world in better shape through helping others that are affected by stroke. Her attitude toward life is inspirational. She�s been through hell, but "she�s O.K." This didn�t just happen over night; it took a lot of hard work on her part, cooperation on the part of her doctors and caregivers, and the answers to a lot of prayers.

    The medical world can explain and treat the brain, and give therapy for the physical deficits, but there wasn�t any warning for the emotional changes that she went through. And that is where the roller coaster starts. It�s just that. It�s a roller coaster of emotions, going up and down and around that are uncontrollable. Sometimes there would be angry moods, paranoid moods, and depression moods. It was the one thing that really knocked me for a loop. I guess I�m just a reality-based thinker. I could deal with the physical aspects of the stroke. And even the day-to-day chores of providing assistance to her were things that I could do, willingly. But the personality changes were scary to me. Its like electricity�you can�t see it, you can�t smell it, but man you can feel it! The medical people hadn�t really helped us with this problem. 

    I suppose that no one would really notice the emotional and personality changes except for the ones that know her closely. I have heard that there are limitations to the amount of time that it takes for the brain to heal or at least recover as much as possible. I have heard some people say six months, or even one year is the limit. But I whole-heartedly disagree with that theory. Gradually, over a period if time her mood swings diminished, her reluctance to be around extended family diminished and her reluctance to be in public places diminished. But all of this took time. And it took more than a year. We are all "healing" together. As she continues to show emotional healing two years post stroke, I too am showing signs of improvement. I have a much greater knowledge of what she endured, and a greater appreciation for my blessings.

    David Schell
Loving, Caregiver



Tracy O�Grady, R.N.
(on the right)

    Dear Sherry,

    I appreciate you thinking of me. I sure hope this helps victims and their caregivers for your website.

    A Stroke? A Brain Attack? What does it mean? How can this happen? What did I do to cause this? Could this have been prevented? Am I going to speak again? Walk again, Be an invalid? Be a burden to my family? Will I recover? How long will it take to recover? Will I die?

    Being a Registered Nurse of 24 years, these are a few questions I have been asked upon a stroke victim�s admission to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The questions may be from the stroke victim themselves or, more often, from their families. I see the victim at their most acute and sometimes weakest phase. Sometimes the deficits are mild. Sometimes they are more severe. Regardless of the severity of deficits, the fear and confusion is there and very real.

    Strokes occur in different areas of the brain that control different parts of the body. Sometimes it affects the speech center, causing slurred speech. It may affect the area of the brain controlling your movements, causing weakness of an arm or leg. Sometime there is no movement of the arm or leg. No two strokes are identical. Treatment may seem similar. However, each person�s needs will be different. Even though a stroke may occur in the same area of the brain of two different people, treatment will be individualized for their needs.

    I believe recovery from a stroke begins upon admission to the hospital. It is important to remember; this may be a lifestyle change/or take a lifetime to recover. In ICU, the nurses assist the physician in stabilization of the neurological status, blood pressure and/or any other medical problems. Information shared between the medical staff and the family is extremely important to assure the best possible care is given. Among the medical questions, we may ask questions regarding the victim�s personality, job status, education background and physical ability. Even though the list is not all inclusive, they help us understand the person�s needs, worries, and fears.

    After the acute phase, the patient is transferred to a less acute area of the hospital.

    Occasionally they are transferred to the rehabilitation facility directly from ICU. Here the physical recovery is emphasized. We, the nurses in the ICU rarely see the patient again and learn their outcomes. I do not want to sound negative, however it is important to realize that recovery is a lengthy process. There are going to be setbacks. More importantly, there are going to be successes. A lot of times the setbacks may seem more prominent than the success. It can be very discouraging. I encourage the patient and families, be patient. Recovery is not in large steps but is built upon the small steps. It may not be obvious. Be diligent in therapy, whether it is physical or occupational. Surround yourself with positive people that will encourage your every step and help you celebrate your successes.

    For the patient and family, please remember: It�s OK to get frustrated. It�s OK to get angry. It�s OK to cry. It�s part of the recovery phase.

    Tracy O�Grady, R.N.



Sherry Pierce
Author of "I'M OK"

    Caregiving affects people in different ways. No two people are alike. However, there are common themes in the way caregiving affects the family. When caregiving for an elderly patient it will have a heavy emotional effect because the caregiver must face the painful, inevitable deterioration of their loved ones, leading ultimately to greater debilitation or even death, even though it is willingly undertaken and often a source of great personal satisfaction.

    Any caregiving commitment will take an emotional toll by just providing the responsibilities of providing long-term care to a disabled victim. It may cause depression, a sense of burden, and cause anger and anxiety. The levels of these emotions have been known to increase if the levels of function of impairment have increased and of course if the recovery is positive and progression improves stress levels become lower.

    Women are known to have a higher level of patients when it comes to caregiving (Study taken by University of Illinois 2001).

    Physical toll on caregiving can be overwhelming, watch heavy lifting and get rest. Get a fill-in for a couple of hours a day or at least every other day and take a break. Assist your victim to gain independence this will help with their self-esteem and take a load off you.

    Financial Toll will in one form or another is a burden in most cases, if the victim is permanently disabled. Make sure you refer to the Social Security Link and begin applying for it. Contact the Insurance Company and become educated what�s covered and what�s not, so their will be no surprises. From a caregiving standpoint, (if the tragedy has just taken place), consider using the family leave act at your place of employment.  This will give you up to12 weeks to make a plan.

    Lastly, every day is hard and much harder at first�. Patients and love will go a long way�

   Good Luck & God Bless,
   Sherry L. Pierce

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