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Stroke Smart Magazine

May/June 2009

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Foster Community
Groups Empower Those Affected by Stroke

By Gabriela Paredes

Feeling alone after stroke can be a road block on the path to recovery, but with the help of a support group, survivors can gain a sense of unity and emotional strength. The challenges posed by stroke can be the most difficult to deal with because the loss of ability has a big impact on self-esteem. That is why it is vital to have an outlet, a forum or simply people to talk to that share similar experiences.

Having to rely on others for help can compel stroke survivors to rethink how they feel about themselves. Being unable to complete daily tasks without aid from others can be frustrating and isolating, especially when the simplest everyday events such as getting out of bed, using the bathroom or getting dressed can be challenging. This loss of ability could mean a loss of independence; a life with limited sense of purpose or enjoyment.

Entering a rehabilitation facility following stroke gives patients and their caregivers the chance to ease into rebuilding their life and their relationships, but it cannot fully prepare them for what lies ahead when they return home. Often, the reality sets in when the daily support of the medical team is gone and survivors and caregivers must navigate a new life together that can be overwhelming. Without support, the stroke survivor can have feel­ings of depression, isolation and low self-esteem and for the caregiver, anxiety and frustration.

Support groups have existed for many years and research has proved their value in strengthening a person’s resolve, giving them purpose and – in the case of stroke – helping survivors regain their sense of self. These resources offer more than support; they can help people problem solve, learn about stroke and recovery issues and help survivors and their care­givers find local resources.

Taking part in a support group helps survivors feel valued and to regain a sense of community by helping them to work toward setting goals, learn about new ways to cope and to talk with others who share like experiences. This fuels self-discovery and a new outlook on life. For caregivers, these groups offer a forum to gain insight and a channel for sharing both the challenges and triumphs with those who share similar issues.

Benefits of Support Groups

  • Gain a sense of community
  • Validation that what you are experiencing is not “in your head”
  • Affirmation that what you are feeling is real
  • Forum to express yourself;
  • hear from like-minded people
  • Strengthen your resolve
  • Build new friendships


The Right Kind of Support

  • There are many ways to get involved with a support group:
  • Contact a local hospital to find group meetings.
  • Contact National Stroke Association at
  • 1-800-STROKES to find local groups or for resources and guides starting a group.
  • Some employers offer these support services as part of an Employee Assistance Program.
  • Check out online groups such as strokenetwork.org and dailystrength.org that offer opportunities to get involved without leaving the house.


Gabriela Paredes is the oldest of three daughters of a stroke survivor. Her mother lives in California and she lives Cape Cod in Maryland. Her background is marketing and she is currently working on freelance projects.


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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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