All Posts Tagged: Stroke

The Role of Support Groups for Caregivers Dealing with Strokes

As caregiver for a loved one who has suffered a stroke, you play an important part in the recovery process from the beginning. But it’s a role that also comes with many challenges and can cause high levels of mental, physical and emotional stress – both for you and the stroke survivor.

Many caregivers feel inadequately prepared to deal with the challenges of caring for someone with disabilities brought on by a stroke. But that’s why the importance of support groups – and support in general – cannot be emphasized enough.

Caregivers and Support

It’s estimated that there are 5 million stroke survivors alive in the U.S. today, with nearly 30% of them being permanently disabled as a result of their stroke. The acute nature of the disease puts extra stress on caregivers who are typically serving their same roles within their own family while also handling the duties of a caregiver.

  • Emotional Support
    According to one study, the importance of emotional support for caregivers is crucial. And the importance of informal support is similarly important, because many caregivers are apprehensive about seeking formal support for a variety of reasons, including financial and time spent apart from the care recipient.
  • Caregivers, Physical Help and Overall Health
    Caregiving can take its toll physically, as one study indicated that caregivers suffer from a variety of physical symptoms, including, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, disrupted sleep patterns, as well as a variety of emotional symptoms such as sorrow. These symptoms can increase as caregivers get older, and emphasizes the importance of friends, family, or outside help, in assisting with the physical aspects of care, including the activities of daily living. Over 80% of participants of one study reported fatigue and stress because of their caregiver duties.
  • Online Support
    The emergence of the Internet has made healthcare information available 24 hours a day and has become an important resource for caregivers. Professionally-managed online support groups are gaining credibility, and are giving caregivers the opportunity to receive personalized information through discussion groups, and also the opportunity to talk live with nurse specialists.
  • Psychological Role
    The importance of social support, which includes both emotional and physical support, has been shown to have a positive impact on a caregiver’s psychological well-being. Without assistance or support, however, experts agree that the caregiver can become the “second patient” within a family. The good news, however, is that support is available in ways that it never was before.

 

 

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How Diabetes Relates to Heart Disease & Stroke

Being diagnosed with diabetes usually means you have to watch your blood sugar, mainly through diet, exercise, and medication. However, diabetes can cause a variety of complications throughout the entire body—but how?

The answer is the circulatory system.

The circulatory system is responsible for the transportation of blood throughout the body, providing nutrients and oxygen to cells, as well as transporting waste and carbon dioxide away from them. When the body begins producing and retaining too much glucose (blood sugar), the substance is not isolated to one sector of the body. The circulatory system pushes and pulls the glucose throughout the entirety of the body via the blood. The excessive amounts of sugar cause damage to blood vessels and the organs that are associated with those vessels suffer the consequences.

Diabetes and Heart Disease

One of the organs that most severely feels the effects of diabetes is the heart. Simply being diagnosed with diabetes dramatically raises a patient’s chances of encountering heart disease. The chances of getting heart disease at a younger age than most, as well as the severity of the heart disease itself, are increased when diabetes enters a patient’s life.

As the vessels supplying blood to the heart become damaged, clogged, or hardened by the high presence of glucose, the heart’s ability to receive (and therefore send out) blood is negatively affected. Types of heart disease that are specific to diabetes are Coronary Heart Disease (a buildup of a substance called “plaque” in the arteries), Heart Failure (when the heart is unable to pump the necessary amount of blood), and Diabetic Cardiomyopathy (a disease that damages the actual function and structure of the heart).

Diabetes and Stroke

Another major organ that suffers damage from diabetes is the brain. The brain thrives on oxygen-rich blood in order to function, and when the blood vessels that provide the blood are affected by excessive glucose, very serious complications can occur. When a vessel responsible for providing blood to the brain closes off or bursts, that part of the brain will become oxygen-deprived, and the cells will die. This can result in speech impairments, vision problems, and mobility issues, including paralysis. Like heart disease, being diagnosed with diabetes can significantly raise your chances of stroke.

We know the struggles that patients encounter as they work to regain lost abilities, and our goal is to help those patients overcome them. We feel it is also our responsibility, however, to educate our community about the causes of these conditions, in the hopes of preventing them.

We will continue to explore the topic of diabetes and circulation in our next post, as we learn about lifestyle changes and management techniques that may help patients cope with (and even prevent) these complications.

Sources:

http://www.diabetes.co.uk/body/circulatory-system.html

http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/heart-disease/

http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/stroke/

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dhd

 

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Aphasia Awareness Month

June is National Aphasia Awareness Month, and, because aphasia is something the team here at Corpus Christi Rehabilitation Hospital encounters frequently, we feel very strongly about spreading awareness of this condition.

Aphasia is a neurological condition that is acquired. This means that something, often a stroke, inflicts damage to the brain and causes normal functions to be interrupted or altered. In the case of aphasia, the damage occurs in the parts of the brain that are responsible for language. A patient suffering from aphasia will often have a difficult time reading and writing. Understanding and communicating with others can also be affected, and presents some very frustrating circumstances for both the patient and the caregiver. One thing to note is that while communication is affected, the intelligence and coherence of the patient is not necessarily altered. The American Psychological Association phrases it well:

“However, it is important to make a distinction between language and intelligence. Aphasia does not affect the intelligence of the person with the disorder, but they cannot use language to communicate what they know.”

This is a fundamental piece of information that we understand and want the rest of the world to understand as well. We’ve had the opportunity to speak with Lisa Driver, the wife of a former Ernest Health patient, about their experience with aphasia rehabilitation at our facility, and it’s clear that she was well aware of this fact, too:

“He was still my Glen; he was still in there.  I knew he wasn’t gone, but he couldn’t get across the things he wanted to say.  I can’t imagine not being able to get people to understand what you’re trying (to say).”

Lisa was fully aware of the disconnect between Glen’s thoughts and his ability to communicate them. When discussing his frustration in therapy, she explained,

“He hated using the communication board, spelling things out, or using pictures. He wanted just to talk. The pictures were not what he wanted. He could not find the performed sentence or picture that matched what he had in his head.”

We use our interdisciplinary approach to care to provide a comprehensive experience that is efficient and complete. By assigning a team of specialists in different rehabilitation disciplines, we can ensure that a patient’s stay is quick and efficient, but also thoroughly attended to, so that no stones are left unturned.

Because of the frustrating disconnect between intention and actual communication, we know how important it is to be compassionate. The team here recognizes its responsibility to both the emotional and physical care of our patients.

When asked about their experiences over the four-month stay that the Drivers had with us, Lisa replied,

“The environment from day one… the administrative staff, nurses, therapists, cafeteria people, dieticians, housekeeping. They would not just come in and take out trash and mop.  They would visit with us, ask how he was doing, share about things in his life. We were there four months.  We would get excited when we would have a nurse rotate back to us.”

Aphasia is a frustrating and devastating condition that we see on a regular basis, and we feel that it deserves as much awareness as it can get. For more information, resources, and support for aphasia patients and their families, please visit the National Aphasia Association’s website.

If you or someone you know is struggling with aphasia, or if you’re simply exploring your options, please contact us. We can promise expertise, empathy, and compassion that can be heard in the testimonials of those who have worked with us previously.

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