Sheila Ramerman, Oregon
Survivors of stroke can face enormous challenges as they recover and rehabilitate—physical, mental and emotional. And by their side are their loved ones, who care for them through it all. A stroke survivor’s family is often the most important source of long-term support during recovery and rehabilitation.
With National Stroke Month upon us, I wanted to take a moment to recognize those special caregivers. Sheila Ramerman’s story of caring for her husband, Jack, is one that is all too often untold. And their story isn’t over—it’s one they continue to live every day in Eugene, Oregon.
In 2008, Jack suffered an ischemic stroke on the right side of his brain. He was just shy of 61.
Immediately, Shelia had to take over all of the household chores and financial responsibilities. During the three months that Jack was in the hospital and in-patient rehab, Sheila had to make some major life changes, drastically limiting her work hours. Even after Jack returned home, for the next two to three years, Sheila was only able to work about half as much as she had before.
The financial burden for families of stroke survivors can be immense and ongoing. Sheila and Jack emptied a retirement savings account to pay for caregivers, so Sheila could work even part-time to pay for continuing outpatient therapy for him, and to qualify for Medicaid assistance. And while Medicaid now pays for his caregivers based on the level of his disability and picks up what Jack’s health insurance does not, Sheila still faces much of the responsibility of daily family life on her own. She is responsible for all of their finances as well as scheduling Jack’s appointments, keeping track of his medications, scheduling his caregivers, and more.
“Everybody thinks of the physical effects of a stroke—the things that are readily visible—but not of the emotional or cognitive effects that can result, depending on the kind of stroke,” Sheila says. “I know I certainly didn't have any knowledge of these ‘invisible’ effects. I think that's something that needs a lot more publicity and education because those are the effects that make recovery so much harder.”
To provide greater support to caregivers for stroke survivors in your life, we have a set of resources and a network to help.
Here in Oregon, the American Heart Association | American Stroke Association is working to prevent stroke, while also working to ensure that victims have access to the best stroke care possible. Through our advocacy work, we educate decision makers, provide expert opinions, and share evidence-based research as we advocate for policies that will do just that. Read more about our latest Oregon victory on stroke here (insert link to the other newsletter article on SB 375).
Our sincerest thanks to Sheila for her courage as a caregiver and in sharing her story. Too many stories just like Sheila and Jack’s never get shared, but we’re working to change that. Please let us know if you have a story to share with us—you can share it right here on You’re the Cure.