3 benefits of stroke survivor support groups

Stroke survivors face many challenges; support groups can help

There’s more to stroke recovery than building back your body. There are mental and social components that sometimes aren’t talked about much. But with the support of fellow stroke survivors, recovery may be easier.

“Stroke survivors deal with work concerns, financial concerns, family dynamic concerns and so much more,” said Brittny Wannemuehler, R.N., patient navigator with Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Center. “Gathering with others who have dealt with the same circumstances and who are hurdling the same life-changing obstacles is very beneficial.”

Wannemuehler recommends participating in a stroke survivors support group for three reasons:

    • Learn from one another: Support groups of any kind are a place to share tips, tricks and trials among members. When you head to a support group, have questions or situations in mind that you can ask others about. Also, think about what you have learned and can share with others.
    • Socialization is key: Many people who are recovering from a stroke can feel inadequate in social settings because of residual side effects from the stroke. Maybe they have trouble finding their words in a conversation or are faced with using a cane or walker. Socialization can stave off depression and anxiety. Those who avoid social settings begin to isolate themselves, which can increase the risk for depression.
    • Caregivers need support, too: Caregivers are welcome to attend support groups and should try to do so. Caring for someone with medical issues can take a toll. Having a place to interact with other caregivers and glean information can help reduce stress.

The resource center offers two stroke support groups, both offering very different perspectives.

A general stroke support group meets on the first Tuesday of each month at Norton Audubon Hospital. Mot attendees are over age 60, however, any and all ages are welcome. The group is led by Joan Bischoff, DNP, APRN, CDE, nurse educator for chronic disease management at Norton Audubon Hospital.

“Our group has a core membership of eight to 10 people, but is very welcoming to new members,” Bischoff said. “We offer a health speaker at the beginning of each session, and the participants spend a significant amount of time sharing tips and enjoying refreshments.”

Bischoff strives to meet and invite patients who have been hospitalized at Norton Audubon Hospital after a stroke. Patients at other Norton Healthcare facilities are sent information about the group.

With more people in their 30s, 40s and 50s experiencing strokes, the resource center saw a need for a stroke support group for younger people. This group meets the second Tuesday of each month in the evening at Mark’s Feed Store on Bardstown Road in Fern Creek. The newly formed group is open to stroke survivors younger than age 60.

“The youngest survivor we have had attend was 21 years old and the oldest was in their upper 50s,” Wannemuehler said. “It’s a great mix of ages and both men and women who want to offer support to one another from topics ranging from dating again, to dealing with depression or learning how to manage family dynamics.”

The young person support group strategically planned its sessions at a location outside of a hospital or medical facility.

“The younger group doesn’t want to meet at a hospital. They don’t want the focus to be on the clinical aspect of stroke; instead they want to focus on life and living after surviving a stroke,” Wannemuehler said. “And we are so fortunate to have a partner in Mark’s Feed Store. The staff and management have been very accommodating.”

Both support groups are open to the community and welcome survivors of any type of stroke. Spouses and caregivers are welcome to attend. The groups meet for 90 minutes and will open with a guest speaker on various topics, including nutrition, sleep disorders, hematology and blood-related issues, as well as wellness experts, estate planning, living will preparation and how to prevent identity theft.

If you live outside of the Louisville area and need help finding a support group close to your home, the nurse navigator at Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Center can help. Call (502) 559-3230.


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