According to the American Heart Association, almost 800,000 people suffer strokes every year. But strokes don’t just change the lives of the people who have them. Family members caring for stroke patients also face difficult challenges.


According to the American Heart Association, almost 800,000 people suffer strokes every year. But strokes don’t just change the lives of the people who have them. Family members caring for stroke patients also face difficult challenges.
 Wayne Memorial Hospital has been helping caregivers cope since last February, when the hospital’s Good Shepherd Inpatient Rehabilitation Center started the area’s only stroke support group. The group is run by Unit Manager Judy Eisenhauer, RN, and Unit Coordinator Janene DuBois.  
 “If (stroke patients) have any kind of deficit, they have to make changes in the way they live their daily lives,” Mrs. Eisenhauer said. “Caregivers are often equally affected by the devastation and the loss.”
 Ms. DuBois called other area hospitals and rehabilitation centers and discovered that none offered a stroke support group. This obvious need prompted the two women to start a group at Wayne Memorial. But they had another, more personal reason: A physical therapy assistant on the unit had recently suffered a severe stroke. She recovered, but the experience really hit home.
 “We realized this could touch any one of us at any time,” Ms. Eisenhauer said.
 Stroke occurs when the brain’s blood supply is cut off due to a blocked or ruptured artery. Lack of oxygen causes brain cells to die and can result in temporary or permanent impairments, such as weakness, paralysis, and loss of speech and vision. Also called a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), stroke is a medical emergency. 
  Managing a 14-bed rehabilitation unit puts Ms. Eisenhauer and Ms. DuBois in touch with stroke patients and their families all the time. Stroke patients are transferred to the unit from Wayne Memorial or other hospitals and usually stay about 3 weeks. A team of nurses, physical, occupational, and speech therapists, and a physiatrist (rehabilitation doctor) help patients regain the functions they’ve lost or learn to live with neurological deficits.
 The stroke support group – for patients, families, and caregivers -- meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Thursday of each month in the unit’s dining room, on the third floor of the hospital. Each meeting features a speaker; then caregivers and former stroke patients can ask questions and discuss problems.
  “It’s like a sounding board, they compare notes,” Ms. DuBois said, adding that they see new faces every month at the support group and more caregivers attend than former patients.
 Some program topics include a tai chi demonstration, home modification ideas, stroke risk factors, driving after a stroke, interpersonal relationships, general caregiver information, and fall prevention. The next meeting, on June 10, will cover assistive devices for people recovering from strokes. Call 570-253-8732 or visit www.wmh.org for more information.
If you have a topic you would like to see discussed in this column, please contact Wayne Memorial Public Relations at (570)253-8631 or email champeau@wmh.org.