Stroke recovery is possible — Ben is proof

He believes stroke survivors will face successes and frustrations. He encourages people to keep moving forward and focus on their strengths

I was going to write about stroke prevention for today’s column. Then I met Ben.

Ben is a 44-year-old father, self-made cook and a community support worker. Ben had a stroke in 2008 at age 37; his kids were 12, 9, 6 at the time of his stroke.

I met Ben through my work with the Stroke Recovery Association of BC; he is the regional director for Vancouver Island. He was the opening speaker at the Stroke Recovery Education Day in Nanaimo on Saturday.

Ben admits he was reluctant to acknowledge things were different after his stroke. Physically, he was left with limited mobility and lost the use of one hand. The aftermath of the stroke put stress on his marriage.

Five years later, Ben lives a different life. He still goes through life one-handed but having spent a day with him setting up and taking down for the event, it wasn’t something he dwells on.

Ben just gets on with it and does what needs doing. He would be the first to admit there are other challenges. He fatigues more easily and it takes him longer to process information.

Ben was able to find a network of strength and inspiration to overcome the challenges he faced.

Other stroke survivors gave him the practical knowledge he needed to apply to his daily routine. His family continues to support him through his recovery.

He found himself back on the golf course practising his swing again, an activity he thought he would have to give up for good after the stroke.

He believes stroke survivors will face successes and frustrations. He encourages people to keep moving forward and focus on their strengths rather than dwelling on limitations.

According to a 2013 poll with Canadians by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, half of Canadians knew of a family member or friend affected by stroke. Twenty per cent said they were actively involved in caring for and supporting someone affected by stroke.

Yet, close to 35 per cent of respondents still hold the belief that recovery from a stroke is limited to the first few months.

I think they need to meet Ben.

Knowledge about stroke recovery has expanded and evolved over the years.

We know so much more than we did even a decade ago. It was accepted that once the six-month mark was reached, the likelihood of further improvements diminished.

We now know this to be untrue.

Stroke recovery is a process in which there are continuous opportunities for improvement. Those are just some of the words Ben and many other stroke survivors live by.

Here are some ways to learn more about stroke recovery:

• June 13 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., please join us for a webinar called Learning to Live Better with Stroke, presented by Gillian Grant, a physiotherapist and hosted by the Care-Ring Voice Network. To join the webinar, copy and paste the link below directly into your browser http://caringvoicenetwork.adobeconnect.com/crv.

• Go to www.strokerecoverybc.ca for more information on stroke recovery and to find information about Stroke Recovery Branches near you. These groups provide invaluable support for people affected by stroke and their caregivers and are located across the province.

• The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Living with Stroke program is for stroke survivors who have completed their active rehabilitation and are living in the community is now available online at www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3483945/k.A2C7/Stroke_Recovery.htm.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Thursday.

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