Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas Into Discoveries – Living With Stroke

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Here, support groups for people living with stroke

Q. My father had a series of strokes and is now paralyzed on the left side of his body. It is difficult for my mother who cares for him since they were very active before this happened.  She has people coming to the house to take care of my dad’s personal needs and she pays for physiotherapy. But my mother is really getting tired and stressed. My sister and I both live four hours away and can’t help out as much as we would like to.  Is there an on-line support group for spouses in her situation? She lives in a small town near North Bay, Ontario.

– Renée, Embrun, Ontario


A. Different areas have different services, but before we get into that, have your parents had their full situation analyzed? That’s what needs to happen first, according to Colleen Churchill, a social worker with the Stroke Rehabilitation Program at Parkwood Hospital in London, Ontario who’s been working with stroke victims and their families for over 25 years. “You need to have their entire situation assessed and really sort out what’s going on,” she says.

The first thing she suggests you do, if you haven’t already, is contact the local hospital, in this case the North Bay Regional Health Care Centre. Ask to speak to a social worker in the neurology or stroke department who can help your parents devise a realistic plan going forward. She also suggests you contact the local Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) to request an intake worker who will help evaluate the situation and make recommendations for support – for your mother as well as your father. It’s free and you can self refer, or your parents’ doctor can do the referral.

As you recognize, your mother needs help too – and that can come in many forms. As Colleen says, “it’s really important to connect with local community resources, especially when family is so far away. Having a stroke means having to manage life in a whole new way – for everyone concerned. Sometimes a caregiver’s expectations of themselves are too high and they burn out. Other times the stroke survivor can put unrealistic expectations on their partner. ”

Other resources Colleen says you and your mother could look into (and you can do it online) are the Victorian Order of Nurses (which has a branch in North Bay), Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, as well as the March of Dimes of Canada which operates support groups (including one in your mother’s area), and the Stroke Recovery Canada toll-free ‘Warmline’, which connects caregivers and stroke survivors with other caregivers and stroke survivors to share experiences and information.

It’s not clear how old your parents are, when this happened, or what degree of disability your father and mother are now dealing with. But there are resources out there to help them, and you, feel supported and connected.

“People dealing with stroke need help moving through the emotional process,” says Colleen. “Not everyone becomes depressed but there certainly is grief and loss and you need to work through that.”


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A professional journalist for more than 25 years, Diane Sewell has written for some of the top newspapers and magazines in Canada and is a baby boomer herself. Her new blog “Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries” is interactive with readers and focuses on life issues – like aging, dating, second marriages, sex, death, family and fashion. Diane will use her expertise to find the right expert to help solve your predicament, unearthing kernels of truth and quickly getting to the heart of the issue.