Erin Markey, MS, RN, SCRN, ANP-BC, St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center® Stroke Coordinator, shares what you need to know about stroke support and how to find the help you need.
Why is support an important part of stroke recovery?
“Surviving a stroke can be physically and emotionally challenging,” said Vincent DeOrchis, MD, Director of Neurology and Stroke Director at St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center®. “The recovery process is often overwhelming for patients and their caregivers. Finding and building support helps to navigate those challenges and plays an important role in stroke recovery.”
What is a stroke? How does it affect a patient?
A stroke is an interruption of blood flow to the brain. Every second counts to seek immediate medical care and help minimize damage to the brain. Stroke survivors may experience one or more changes, including:
These changes often require a patient to rely on family, friends and/or health care professionals. Stroke support services are essential for patient recovery and positive long-term outcomes.
Why are stroke support groups important?
Support groups offer:
- Education. Includes learning about secondary stroke prevention and lifestyle modifications. Also, how to manage physical and cognitive changes such as decreased mobility, communication and memory changes.
- Socialization. A way to connect with others who share similar experiences.
- Resources. Includes information about Medicare, Medicaid and community resources.
- Emotional support. Helps comfort patients who are feeling overwhelmed, anxious and/or depressed.
- Caregiver support. Helps patients and their caregivers discuss concerns about care management.
What other stroke support services are helpful?
Outpatient or inpatient physical rehabilitation services. This includes:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech language therapy
- Cognitive therapy
Mental health services. Counseling and therapy to help patients cope with anxiety, depression and feeling overwhelmed.
Social services. Registered social workers can provide assistance with financial and social issues.
Nutrition services. Registered dietitians can help with meal planning and creating a healthy diet.
Assistive devices. Patients may require durable medical equipment to aid in mobility, such as a single axis cane or rolling walker. Also, communication boards to aid in communication for patients who have difficulty with speech.
Home care services. Medical care and assistance with daily living activities for homebound patients.
Transportation services. Assists those unable to get to and from appointments.
How do support groups help caregivers?
An important part of stroke recovery is support from caregivers who help patients navigate post-hospitalization care. For patients, this can often bring feelings of guilt and being a burden. For caregivers, they can experience burnout that causes physical and emotional exhaustion. Learn more about caregiver burnout.
Support groups provide a safe and neutral space to share frustrations and find a way forward to benefit both the patient and caregiver.
How do support groups help with follow-up care and lifestyle habits?
Managing follow-up care and developing healthy habits are key elements of stroke recovery. Stroke support groups can provide helpful guidance for:
Lifestyle modifications. Includes diet and exercise to reduce the risk of a secondary stroke.
Follow-up care. Includes routine appointments with physicians and medication management to reduce the risk of a secondary stroke.
- Managing blood pressure
- High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for a stroke
- Maintaining good cholesterol levels
- Getting the recommended amount of sleep
- See a doctor if you have, or need to be evaluated for, obstructive sleep apnea—a risk factor for stroke
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Managing blood sugar
- Being more active
- Eating healthy
- Stopping smoking
Find Support at Catholic Health
Catholic Health offers support groups for stroke survivors and their caregivers at locations across Nassau and Suffolk counties.
- Good Samaritan University Hospital (West Islip, NY): Call 631-487-3119 for more information.
- St. Charles Hospital (Port Jefferson, NY): Call 631-474-3700 for more information.
- St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center® (Roslyn, NY): Call 516-629-2013 for more information.
Call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.