Why is it important to have a post-stroke support system?
You survived a stroke. You have now experienced being admitted to the hospital, where you endured all kinds of pokes and prods, exams, and imaging. After a few days to a few weeks, you stabilized medically, and exited the “acute” stage, promoting you to your “subacute” stage of stroke recovery. At this point, you likely experienced all kinds of therapy interventions to help you relearn and recover as much safety, independence, and function as possible before you would go on to the next stage of stroke recovery, the "chronic" stage.
You may have stayed in a rehabilitation hospital or skilled nursing facility, or you may have discharged home with orders for home health or outpatient therapies. Throughout all of these stages, you may have found it useful to have a friend or family member present to help you remember things you were taught, or just to encourage you to not give up.
Though each person experiences stroke and stroke recovery differently, one thing remains the same:
the stronger your support system, the higher the impact on mental health, recovery of function, and overall social participation. You may find the importance of your support system to be much more apparent in the “chronic” part of your journey, where you have been home for months or even years after your stroke began, and you are trying your best to remain active and independent.
How do I find a support system?
Support can come from individuals or groups. It can come from people you have known your whole life, or people you just met today. You may prefer to seek support from someone who has never experienced what you are going through who can offer a fresh perspective, or you may feel that you feel most supported by someone (or multiple people) whose experiences closely mirror your own.
Sometimes it can be hard to connect with people to start the process of building your support system. If reaching out and asking for help seems unnerving, consider checking one of the following online support groups first:
The Stroke Channel TV: an online support group that meets every Tuesday at 11am PST
The Stroke Network: an online forum where you can simply read through topics and responses as a guest, or register and post your thoughts
Neofect Support Group: an online interactive resource where NEOFECT users and prospective users can ask questions, share stories, and create connections
For those looking for in-person connections, consider these options:
California Support Groups: Several in-person support groups throughout California compiled by TheStrokeChannel.TV creator Cristopher Ewing
Stroke Support Group Finder: an American Stroke Association resource helping you find a stroke support group in your local area https://www.stroke.org/en/stroke-support-group-finder
Reblin, M, and Uchino, B. Social and Emotional Support and its Implication for Health. (2008). Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 21(2):201–205. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e3282f3ad89
Elloker, T, and Rhoda, A. The relationship between social support and participation in stroke: A systematic review. (2018). African Journal of Disability. 7: 357. doi: 10.4102/ajod.v7i0.357