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Stroke Support Group Aids Recovery

You or a loved one have survived a stroke and are headed home. You have a caregiver in place and a rehab program planned. What else should you do to ensure the most complete recovery possible?

Join a stroke support group like the one offered by Washington Hospital.

“For stroke survivors and caregivers adjusting to life after stroke, social support and community resources can make a huge difference,” says Doug Van Houten, RN, assistant chief nursing director and clinical coordinator of the Washington Hospital Stroke Program. “But, in most cases, people don’t know about the resources and often don’t know who to ask.”

The Washington Hospital Stroke Support Group is designed to provide free social and emotional support for stroke survivors and their caregivers. The free program, open to individuals who have had strokes and their caregivers, meets from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month in the Neurosciences Offices, suite 224, Washington West, 2500 Mowry Ave., Fremont.

Various members of the Washington Hospital Stroke Team — including physical and occupational therapists, speech therapists, dietitians and pharmacists — attend meetings to share expertise on a variety of stroke-related topics.

Stroke support group meetings include educational discussions on diet, motor skills, exercise and other relevant topics, group exercises/stretches or craft work, refreshments and social time. Each seminar includes a question and answer session with the experts and group discussions.

Participants have an opportunity to share stories, challenges and solutions they have found that are helpful to the stroke survivor, the caregiver or both, Van Houten says. Participation ranges between 10 and 20 individuals.

He notes that many resources are available to stroke survivors as long as they and their caregivers know where to look. “That’s where the support group can be a great help,” he adds.

“Our staff can help connect participants who can’t drive to paratransit services and I often refer stroke survivors to Cal State East Bay which has a master’s program for speech therapists,” Van Houten says. “A number of our survivors — including my mother-in-law — have benefitted tremendously from that program.”

Recovery, he says, also is helped by connecting with others who are working to recover from a stroke. “A real benefit of the support group is that it provides a safe environment for stroke survivors to talk about their experiences with others who are going through a similar process.”

It’s always great to see the progress of people in the group, Van Houten says. “While each person must work hard at his or her own individual recovery program, the support of the others in the group clearly helps.”

For additional information about the Washington Hospital Stroke Support Group, please call 510.745.6525.

Stroke Screening Day

Washington Hospital is holding a Stroke Awareness and Screening Day, open to all community members on Saturday, March 19. Van Houten urges anyone who may be concerned that they, or someone they care about, may be at risk for a stroke to participate in the screening program.

Stroke Awareness Day participants will be screened by Washington Hospital staff for the eight major risk factors for stroke. The free program, open to the public, will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Conrad E. Anderson, MD, Auditorium, Washington West, 2500 Mowry Ave., Fremont.

Prior registration is essential for all who wish to participate. You may register, or obtain additional information, by calling 800.963.7070. To learn more about strokes, visit