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Learn About Continuing Advancements in Stroke Treatment

September 25, 2012

Free Seminar Addresses Latest in Diagnosis, Management and Life After Stroke

Given that stroke is one of the most disabling diseases, it's easy to assume, especially without all the facts, that it is also unavoidable. For instance, maybe you had a grandparent or other relative who suffered a stroke and passed away after. And now, all you remember is that someone told you, "Strokes are something that happen to older people."

What Is the Future of Stroke Care?

"Ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, doesn't impact only the elderly population," says Dr. Ash Jain, M.D., medical director of Washington Hospital's Stroke Program. "Everyone in the community should know what stroke is and how to recognize it, but it's also important to understand that prevention and treatment are possible."

Strokes can and do happen to younger people, which means that sometimes information we hear - in childhood and as we get older - can be misleading and potentially dangerous. After all, you might think: why bother learning about something that is unavoidable?

"Stroke is both highly preventable and highly treatable, but not enough people in the community have all the facts. It is very important for people to be aware of the latest developments and what's to come in stroke care," says Dr. Jain. "Our program, as a certified Primary Stroke Center, is always striving to achieve the most efficient means of diagnosis and proven acute management techniques that lead to the best possible outcomes for our patients."

For community members, the first step is having the right information, particularly given that something you heard about as little as five years ago may no longer be accurate. Dr. Jain points out that widening treatment windows and impressive advancements allow for better outcomes, particularly at Primary Stroke Centers - programs certified by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association (AHA) - like Washington Hospital's.

"It's important that community members attend this free educational series and help themselves, their family and friends," Dr. Jain says. "We want people to know how important it is to learn about stroke prevention and management, because it is devastating if the right actions are not taken in a timely manner."

He adds that patients have better outcomes when they seek help as soon as possible after the onset of stroke symptoms.

"Residents of Washington Township have a distinct advantage in that they have a certified Primary Stroke Center in their community. We have a streamlined process for the diagnosis of stroke, beginning from the very moment someone arrives in the ER or calls 9-1-1, and we continue to exceed national benchmarks for several important indicators, including patient and community education and treatment."

What Happens After Stroke?

After a stroke - once the acute management has been performed and acute rehabilitation is completed - what happens? And what does "life after stroke" mean for the patient and the caregiver, who is most often a spouse?

First, it's important to understand that the aftermath of stroke is very different than a heart attack, for instance, according to Doug Van Houten, R.N., clinical coordinator of Washington's Stroke Program.

"Heart attacks can be crippling, but not to the extent that strokes are," he explains. "You can have a pretty bad heart attack and still lead a fairly normal life. But even after a mild stroke, you may not be able go back to work, drive, or communicate well. Even though heart problems are the No. 1 killer in the United States, strokes remain the most disabling."

Van Houten says life after stroke can present enormous challenges, including:

  • Loss of independence
  • Loss of physical movement
  • Cognitive decline
  • Inability to communicate well
  • Dysphagia (trouble swallowing)
  • Changes in the relationships with friends and family
  • Depression

"Stroke doesn't just affect you physically, but psychologically and socially as well," he points out. "It can affect your partnership with your spouse. All of a sudden, you have a stroke - and now your spouse is a care provider. Having to change to a care receiving/care providing relationship is tough, and the roles can change a lot from traditional roles."

The big question, though, is how to move forward despite the challenges, according to Van Houten.

"There is a delicate relationship between trying hard to improve and accepting what you can't change," he points out. "You have to find the good in something. There may be things that you really can't do anymore, so you have to find creative ways to enjoy life."

"If you loved hiking before your stroke but mobility issues prevent you from doing it, maybe you can go to Yosemite and stay in the lodge and enjoy being in the middle of the natural beauty. It's about finding a way to still enjoy the things you used to do even if you can't do them in exactly the same way."

Van Houten notes that creativity and a positive outlook can go a long ways, and it's important to continue striving for improvements - big or small - as well as finding meaning and enjoyment from new or modified activities or pastimes.

Get the Answers

To learn more about what future holds as far as diagnosis and acute management of stroke and how to cope with life after stroke, attend the free community education seminar on Tuesday, Oct. 2, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Rooms A and B, in the Washington West building at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

To register, visit www.whhs.com or call (800) 963-7070.

Community's Stroke Program Goes International

Washington Hospital's Stroke Program - represented by Medical Director Ash Jain, M.D., and Clinical Coordinator Doug Van Houten, R.N. - has been invited to present at the 8th World Stroke Congress in Brazil.

During the past six years, the Stroke Program has treated approximately 3,000 patients and has collected extensive data on topics including mortality rates, different stroke scales for outcome, and the effect of stroke education on the community.

The Stroke Program submitted five scientific abstracts, and all five were accepted for presentation at the event.

This year's World Stroke Congress will take place Oct. 10-13. For more information, visit www.world-stroke.org.

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