What the Future Holds for Stroke Care
Learn About Solutions to Emotional Challenges When Living with Stroke
For being the No. 1 cause of long-term disability, stroke-also known as a brain attack-is perhaps one of the most often misunderstood diseases. Furthermore, even if you do know what stroke is and how to identify it, there are still many pieces of the puzzle that may remain missing.
Ash Jain, M.D., medical director of Washington Hospital's Stroke Program, urges all members of the community to take every opportunity to learn as much as they can about this deadly disease.
What Is the Future of Stroke Care?
"There are so many misconceptions about stroke as a disease process," says Dr. Jain. "For example, when people think of stroke, many times they think it's something that only impacts the elderly population. The truth is that we see patients in the ER who are in their 40s, 50s and 60s.
"Stroke is something that everyone in the community should know how to recognize, because it may impact someone close to you."
During an upcoming free Stroke Education Series seminar on Tuesday, Feb. 5, Dr. Jain will talk about what the future holds for stroke diagnosis and management.
"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."
One of the ways that Washington Hospital's program has done this is by actively participating in the international stroke community to ensure that the program has the most up-to-date data available. Last October, Dr. Jain and Stroke Program Clinical Coordinator Doug Van Houten, R.N., traveled to the World Stroke Congress in Brazil to share research and compare ideas.
"We have taken the next step in our goal to provide the best stroke care at a local level," he says. "The future of acute stroke management is constantly evolving, and we need to stay at the forefront of the research."
The first step to combat stroke is to seek out accurate information about the disease, Dr. Jain says, particularly since what may not have been treatable in your grandparents' day could now have a readily available solution-given you're aware of it and seek medical attention quickly.
Dr. Jain also is quick to point out that widening treatment windows and impressive advancements have allowed for vastly better outcomes in recent years. However, this is particularly true at Primary Stroke Centers-programs that are certified by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association (AHA)-like Washington Hospital's.
"I ask that community members take time to attend this free educational series and help themselves, their family and friends," Dr. Jain says. "People need to know how important it is to learn about stroke prevention and management, because stroke is absolutely devastating if the right actions are not taken in a timely manner."
Living with stroke
According to the National Stroke Association, more than 7 million people in the United States have survived a stroke. But what happens after patients receive acute management and rehabilitation in the hospital when-ideally-the stroke survivor goes home?
During the upcoming stroke seminar, Van Houten will focus on some of the lesser-known-yet very real-impacts of stroke.
"When it comes to stroke, it's all about brain damage," he explains. "The brain is a big compartmentalized organ, and if the part of the brain responsible for sensory function of the left leg is affected by stroke, then you can't feel that leg well. And there are sections of the brain that, when damaged by stroke, can result in blindness, hearing loss, inability to speak. ... Even the part of the brain that controls emotions and keeps you energized and feeling positive-if the stroke hits that area, then bam, there it goes."
"Emotionally, a stroke survivor might be suffering from something that isn't quite as noticeable in a crowd of people, but it's very real."
Van Houten says the emotional impact of stroke is often the hardest to deal with. Many times, stroke survivors must cope with depression, anger, and pseudobulbar affect (PBA), also known as emotional lability-which refers to the tendency toward involuntary crying or uncontrollable episodes of crying or laughing, or other emotional displays. Van Houten gives the example of a family patriarch who, after a stroke, bursts into tears when shown a picture of a puppy.
"This is a real effect of stroke, and it's hard for people," he says. "There can be inappropriate laughing, somber moments, and it can be hard for the stroke survivor to straighten out those emotions. It's also very surprising for family members."
Van Houten notes that there are effective medications to treat things like depression, and the Stroke Support Group at Washington Hospital is a terrific resource for stroke survivors and their caregivers to listen and share in a supportive environment.
"If someone has a moment of emotional lability in the Stroke Support Group, we say: it happened; we can deal with it; let's go forward. Just move forward."
He adds that part of living with stroke is finding ways to resolve everyday issues and get back to living life as normally as possible-or, as Van Houten says, finding the "new normal" after stroke.
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, Feb. 5, 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.