Your Health: The Emotional Impact of Stroke

By Eileen McNichols, Director of Community Health and Pastoral Care Services

Stroke is a devastating health challenge. An increased awareness of signs and symptoms of stroke and the importance of seeking treatment as soon as the first indication of stroke occurs has had a positive impact on the long-term effects of stroke. But many people are not familiar with the emotional effects of stroke.

Many stroke survivors experience fear, anxiety, frustration, sadness and a sense of loss for the functional changes that accompany a stroke. Some stroke survivors experience Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA), a medical condition that causes sudden and unpredictable episodes of crying or laughing in socially inappropriate situations. PBA is caused brain damage that occurred during the stroke.

The National Stroke Association performed a survey in 2010 about PBA and 53% of the stroke survivors who answered the survey reported symptoms of PBA. Only one in five stroke survivors surveyed were familiar with PBA. Those who experience PBA frequently report that the unpredictable episodes of crying or laughing interferes with their ability to enjoy social activities, even with their own family members and close friends.

The goal of treatment for PBA is to reduce the severity and frequency of emotional outbursts. Some medications may help, such as low doses of antidepressants. A medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration is designed specifically to treat PBA.

There are a few things that one can do to help cope with this difficult condition. First, it is important for family and friends to know about PBA so they are not surprised or confused when episodes occur. During an episode, it is best to take deep breaths, relax the body and change positions. Neurologists who care for stroke survivors are a wonderful resource.  On Mon., May 7, 11 a.m., neurologist Melissa Rooney, MD, will present a free seminar about PBA at Little Company of Mary Hospital (LCMH), 2800 W. 95th St. For information and to register, call 708-423-5774.

Support is key to managing recovery from a stroke for both the survivor and caregivers. LCMH has a free support group that focuses on the specific needs of community members who have experienced a stroke or stroke symptoms. The next meeting is Tues., June 19. For information, call 708-229-5412.

The Joint Commission, the independent not-for-profit organization that reviews healthcare performance standards, recently reaccredited and recertified LCMH as a Primary Stroke Center. After undergoing a vigorous certification process, involving an on-site evaluation and demonstration of compliance with nationally developed standards for stroke, LCMH’s Stroke Center earned the Gold Seal of Approval.

Top Four Programs at LCMH

Information and registration, 708-423-5774

Health Academy:  Pseudobulbar Affect after Stroke, presented by neurologist Melissa Rooney, MD, Mon., May 7, 11 a.m., Little Company of Mary Hospital Conference Room, 1st floor. Free.

C.H.E.E.R Body and Soul: The Importance of Caring for the Spirit, Wed., May 9, 11 a.m., Little Company of Mary Hospital Conference Room, 1st floor. Free.

Lung Cancer Screening, Sat., May 12, 8 a.m. to noon, includes a low dose CT scan of the chest; must meet certain criteria. Outpatient Care Center, 6700 W. 95th St. Registration required. Fee: $125.

Wake Up Call Screening, one-hour comprehensive screening for heart attack and stroke, Sat., May 19, 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Includes labs, ultrasounds of abdominal aorta and carotid arteries, heart rhythm screening for A Fib and more. No doctor’s order needed. Registration required. Fee: $155. (Value $4,500).

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