HOUSTON — Men said they overcame problems during the first year of caring for stroke survivor wives or partners, according to a small study released Tuesday in a nursing symposium at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2017.

Experts say that transitioning from a non-caregiver to caregiver can prove challenging — particularly for men — after stroke suddenly forces a family to deal with new emotions and realities. Researchers conducted bimonthly interviews about the problems and successes of 13 white men with an average age of 62 who cared for their wife or long-time friend in the first year after a stroke.

Most men were employed full time and said they spent up to 16 hours each day providing care. They reported 275 problems and 393 successes.

The study participants had five problem areas that they reported:  Adjusting to multi-tasking in everyday living; recognizing physical and mental disabilities; dealing with outside forces and limited resources; struggling to return to normal; and feeling physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.

“After a stroke, not only did the caregiver have to take over all tasks — such as cleaning, cooking and paying bills — he also had to care for his spouse,” said Linda L. Pierce, Ph.D., R.N., professor at the University of Toledo in Ohio. “This left him struggling to balance former responsibilities at the same time he was learning to take on several new roles.”

Some of the men  said positive attitudes helped them and their partner.

“Their successes were building blocks in supporting their partners and, in most cases, the successes made their relationships stronger,” Pierce said. “One said that in giving so much care, he receives satisfaction at succeeding in caregiving and that he feels he has ‘grown as a person’.”

Another caregiver reported his wife’s willingness and positive attitude made his job much easier and he was supported by her more than he supported her.

“Caregivers should be encouraged to recognize both the strengths and weaknesses in their relationship caring for a spouse with stroke,” Pierce said. “They should focus on the successes as they pull together to meet life’s challenges, but also teach them what problems to report before small concerns become a crisis.”