Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stroke: Take It To Heart

Do you know someone who has suffered a stroke? Every 45 seconds someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke. May is Stroke Awareness Month.

We have occasion in our store to meet people every day who are surviving stroke. We meet, too, the families of those who are in the immediate throes of worry as a loved one is hospitalized or is in rehabilitation. They come in looking for products and resources to help with recovery for themselves or someone they love and care about. I’ll talk some later about some of the tools and aids that help people regain independence.

We have an inside view on just how many people pick up their lives and focus on regaining strength and mobility after surviving a stroke. We donate our community room to Rocky Mountain Stroke Association every week. Physical therapist Michele Harrison works with individuals and their families on movement, strength training, balance and maneuvering through day-to-day activities in that room.

Take Lyn, for example, who writes in a letter to the editor that “many stroke survivors can recover functions even years after the stroke. They do it by persistent trying and rehabilitation help.” Lyn should know. She is one of the ones working hard, trying persistently, and benefiting from the great program Rocky Mountain Stroke Association (RMSA) offers in our community room. Lyn and her husband learned about Brain Fitness, the software program we sell at Capabilities. They saw a demo, did some research, and got excited about the possibilities. Lyn reports progress as she makes her way through the many levels of exercises.

Because stroke often affects the ability to speak, speech therapist, Julie Harrington, works with RMSA stroke survivors. She offers speech assessments, therapy and support groups. I had the chance recently to go into the group for a bit of conversation. It was great to interact with so many determined folks and their families. They are committed to the possibilities. “Be unlimited,” we say, regardless of the challenges that will always, in one way, or another present themselves. I admire the courage and determination I see in these incredible people every week.

Keeping all those arteries that lead into and out of the heart and brain clear and healthy is full-time business. Eat well, exercise, laugh, live fully, the experts say are the best ways to ensure health and try to prevent stroke in the first place.

Recognizing symptoms can make a world of difference when stroke occurs. Sudden numbness, confusion, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, trouble walking, severe headache with no known cause. I recently read that asking the individual to speak a simple sentence coherently can give you even more valuable information quickly. And say, “Stick out your tongue.” If it pulls strongly in one direction, and some of the other symptoms are visible, act quickly. Call 911. Every minute counts. Nearly 5 million stroke survivors are alive today because of quick action at the time.

Because stroke is the leading cause of disability, it is the days and months following a stroke that require determination, patience and resourcefulness on everyone’s part to ensure optimal repair and growth of brain tissue. Developing a program of rehabilitation with a team of professionals as quickly as possible proves essential to retraining the body and the mind. The brain amazingly has the ability to forge new routes, to learn, to find alternative connections. Repetition builds both physical and mental muscle. A focus on reclaiming as much independence as possible provides motivation and hope, invaluable qualities for the survivor and loved ones alike.

And there are tools aplenty to help navigate the way safely and competently – tools for mobility, dressing, eating, standing, sitting; products that comfort, soothe and encourage independence; community resources for survivors and caregivers alike. As the individual prepares to go back home after hospitalization and perhaps a stint in a rehab facility, it is critical to ensure safety first. Focus on the bathroom and bedroom first. Install grab bars, get a raised toilet seat, a bath bench or tub lift. Add a rail or support bar to the bed to facilitate getting into and out of the bed. We have a great one called the Bed Cane that is very functional and attractive, sometimes a difficult combination to achieve in the world of assistive devices. You might need to install ramps, either permanent ones if the individual will need to use a wheelchair for a long period of time, or portable ones that you can move when needed. Threshold ramps are also essential in some homes that have thresholds between rooms. They allow for easier and safer maneuverability around the home.

Depending on how the stroke affected the individual, you might also want to have a reacher on hand, long-handled combs, brushes and sponges so s/he can feel as independent as possible. We especially love a new type of elastic shoelace developed by a Colorado company that allows you adjustment of the tension at each set of eyelets, making a custom fit. The user simply slides his or her foot into the shoe without having to tie and untie. They also have that wonderful combination of useful and attractive, available in about 15 colors.

For the rest of May we will include in our weekly newsletter information about additional products, community resources, and any tips readers might share with us. Come join us for Stroke Prevention Day at Capabilities at 10:00am on Tuesday, June 19th. Representatives from Rocky Mountain Stroke Association, Easter Seals and Life Line Screening will be leading an open panel discussion and answering questions to help you become more "stroke smart". This is a valuable opportunity to learn about types of stroke, warning signs, risk factors, healthy lifestyle choices, community services and a lot more.

Let us know your story about stroke. Tell us about the rehabilitation process, what tools work best, what advice you have for others. Please post a comment with details.

1 comment:

Life Line said...

For more information about Life Line Screening, please call us at 1-877-237-1336, or visit us online at