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Religion and Spirituality in Caregiving

A religious leader with a stroke survivor.

Receiving a stroke diagnosis is life altering for survivors and their loved ones. It is at times like this that religious affirmation is crucial for some individuals. Regardless of the caregiver’s religious inclinations, it is important that to recognize the relationship between healing and spirituality. Often times, when a stroke survivor needs something to cling to, their spirituality can be their anchor.

Researchers have found one’s beliefs and values can profoundly affect quality of life. For example, believing in an afterlife affects how a person copes with a harsh medical diagnosis and approaches rehabilitation. The experience of recovering from a stroke can be both devastating and enlightening. It can ignite a spiritual journey for both the caregiver and the patient.

Stroke survivors often feel a loss of control over their bodies, creating a sense of vulnerability. Spiritual practices can help survivor’s refocus, and bring balance and perspective back into their lives. It has also been shown that religious routines result in reduced stress and depression.

As a caregiver, even if you yourself are not religious, you should develop an understanding, sensitivity and respect for your loved one’s belief system. If a loved one needs to watch a religious service morning and night, allow them this experience without making it seem like a burden.

Many people will ask a minister, priest, rabbi or other spiritual members to their home to discuss their spiritual beliefs. Why me? How am I going to cope with this illness and recovery? Spiritual leaders will discuss these issues, offering support and encouragement. My mother was kiddingly told, “there’s a life time warrantee on this sacrament.” They both laughed and he continued to visit, resulting in a psychological uplifting and spiritual satisfaction.

Another situation that often arises, is that in which the experience of caregiving awakens a sense of spirituality for the caregiver. Caregiving can bring about a newly found or appreciated closeness and even a reaffirmation of the importance of relationships so easily overlooked in the stress and bustle of everyday life. 

Most importantly, remember that spirituality is an ongoing part of every person’s journey.

By: Carol M. Maloney, Stroke survivor, former teacher, and adolescent literacy specialist

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"Spiritual practices can help survivor’s refocus, and bring balance and perspective back into their lives."

Maintaining Hope and Looking Forward

For stroke survivors and caregivers it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s important to remember that the worst is behind you. With the right attitude and amount of determination every day represents progress.

Help your loved one stay optimistic by using the following conversation prompts.

  • Ask your loved one, “What long-term hopes and dreams do you have?” Discuss what steps in rehabilitation will allow these dreams to remain a reality.
  • Ask, “Are there any upcoming events you want to participate in? A wedding, trip, birthday, etc.” Encourage your loved one to make short, medium, and long-term recovery goals. Discuss the necessary steps to achieving these goals.
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