Anita Lam

Anita and her husband Thomas attend the Strathcona Stroke Recovery Group, run by After Stroke BC. The couple appreciates the opportunity to connect with other stroke survivors and caregivers to share experiences, support and knowledge.

smiling Anita and Thomas on pathway in the park

In December of 2014, Anita Lam’s husband, Thomas, fell three times. That’s when she took him to a neurologist. Brain imaging revealed that he’d probably had several transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs, which are small strokes.

After that, Anita became Thomas’ full-time caregiver. “I have to be there all the time,” she says. “Even when he goes to the bathroom. It’s a lot of pressure.” Fortunately, they found the Strathcona Stroke Recovery Group (run by After Stroke British Columbia, an affiliate of March of Dimes Canada).

“Thomas was very mobile before. Now he tires easily and gets frequent headaches. He shuffles when he walks, and has trouble supporting his upper body, which makes him unsteady. He occasionally chokes on food and liquid, his movement is limited, and he needs a wheelchair when we go out. He tries to walk at home, which is good, but there’s always the risk he’ll fall.”

She squeezes chores and errands into the 45 minutes he spends napping each day, or when personal support workers come to help him wash and do his exercises. The only other time she gets to herself is after Thomas goes to bed at around 11 p.m. By then, she’s exhausted.

The chance that Thomas will fall is Anita’s greatest fear and biggest challenge. It means she is nervous about ever leaving Thomas alone.

smiling Anita by a path in the park
Anita Lam enjoying a sunny day in Stanley Park, Vancouver

How we helped

The Strathcona Stroke Recovery Group has been crucial for Anita and Thomas.

“We felt welcomed from our first meeting,” Anita recalls. “Most of the members are from Hong Kong, too, and they speak Cantonese so it was easy to connect.”

Anita describes everyone at the meetings – survivors, caregivers, volunteers, and coordinators – as caring and concerned. She and Thomas both get a lot out of attending.

The group is also a practical resource. A nutritionist and a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine were recent guest speakers, and Thomas is more willing to do his exercises there than he is at home, which gives Anita some comfort.

Anita counts herself lucky to have the stroke recovery group and personal support workers’ help. But she still struggles.

Anita encourages other caregivers not to give up, to seek help, and to remember they aren’t alone. There are supports available.

“Being a caregiver is hard, particularly when it’s someone with mobility issues,” she says. “Health officials need to hear that and provide more help.”