Archive for the ‘Stroke’ Category

Communication Breakdown: Overcoming The Challenges Of A Stroke

Posted on May 8th, 2012 by kim

First Dictionary Can Help With Stroke Recovery

by Kim Keller

Imagine waking up one day and not being able to read.  It’s a frightening thought, right?  Add not being able to speak with ease, and you start to get a sense of what stroke victims routinely face, the ones who are lucky enough to survive the initial brain attack.

That’s what happened to my mom.  In September 2009, she had a stroke that left her aphasic, which is defined as “a partial or total loss of the ability to articulate ideas or comprehend written or spoken languages.”  In short, Mom’s ability to communicate had been hugely damaged.

We could see it right away, in the immediate aftermath of her stroke.  Mom was having trouble finding her words, nouns in particular.  It was both frightening and frustrating for everyone involved, especially her, of course. But it was several days before we realized that Mom wasn’t just going to snap out of it, like an amnesiac cured by a second bump on the head.  We finally came to accept that Mom would have to relearn how to read and write.

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Our Mom Shares Her Keys To A Successful Stroke Recovery

Posted on April 2nd, 2012 by kim

Mom at Lincoln Center

by Kim Keller

Our mother flew up from Florida last week to visit with Karen and me.  Maneuvering the travel all by herself was quite an accomplishment considering she had a stroke in September 2009.  Healing time, enhanced by her extraordinary commitment to hard work, made the visit possible.

The stroke left Mom with what’s called aphasia, which means her ability to communicate was damaged.  Specifically, she has difficulty finding words — nouns, in particular.  Mom knows, for example, that a flower is a flower, but she may have a hard time actually retrieving the word when she wants to say it.  Not only has she struggled finding her words when she speaks, but she has also had to re-learn how to read, write, tell time and calculate simple math.  It’s been a long, exhausting, frustrating journey back.

One of the things that Mom most wanted to do while visiting us was return to the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center here in New York City.  Rusk is where we brought Mom after her initial hospital stay in Florida in the immediate aftermath of her stroke, and it’s widely recognized as one of the best rehab facilities in the country.  Mom remembers this time at Rusk fondly, which, of course, amuses Karen and me since it was such a struggle to convince her to go.

Now, two and a half years later, Mom considers her Rusk experience as one of the real keys to her recovery.  Reflecting on her hard-fought recuperation over lunch near Lincoln Center, just before our visit to Rusk (that’s our mom pictured above), she offered the following suggestions for anyone who has suffered a stroke:

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Be Prepared: How To Identify A Stroke

Posted on February 21st, 2012 by karen

by Karen Keller Capuciati

We are still not quite sure how our mom managed to make the call to her friend, Marcella, on the morning of September 14, 2009.  She didn’t know it at the time, but she was having a stroke.

She later told me that she knew something was wrong because she couldn’t open the window blinds.  She couldn’t mentally coordinate this simple everyday task.  When she called Marcella, she couldn’t speak clearly — she couldn’t put words together to explain what was happening.  So Marcella rushed over to Mom’s house, where she called Kim and me on Mom’s cell phone.  (We remember it distinctly because we were on the phone together and we both saw that Mom was trying to reach us — something was definitely up!)  When we had Mom on the phone, she couldn’t find the words to say what was wrong.  She gave the phone back to Marcella who confirmed that Mom was very distressed and indeed having trouble speaking.

The thought that Mom might be having a stroke crossed our minds.  Clearly the answer was GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM NOW!

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Keeping The Joy Of Reading Alive

Posted on February 6th, 2012 by kim


by Kim Keller

My friends, Marti and Mary Clare, were sharing a story with me about their mom, Alice, who is 86 years old and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about 4 years ago.  Alice had always been an avid reader — she spent whatever time she could in her favorite chair in the front room of their house in Muskego, Wisconsin, where she’d enjoy all types of novels (with a preference for mysteries like those of Tom Clancy) and biographies about people she admired, such as Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt and legendary Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr (Alice was an avid sports fan and, naturally, the Packers were her team).

But Alzheimer’s attacks the brain and gradually destroys nearly every form of cognitive thought, isolating its victims from the lives they once knew.  So it was just a matter of time before Alice’s joy of reading would slip away from her.

Marti and Mary Clare, along with their six other siblings, all of whom affectionately refer to themselves as Team Alice, started to notice that their mom was taking an uncharacteristically long time with each book she picked up, and no longer showed the passion she once had.  They asked Alice what was going on and she explained that reading had become much too difficult for her.

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Our Favorite Tools: A Celebratory Retrospective

Posted on January 23rd, 2012 by kim

Green Tool Box Photo by Sue Schultz

by Kim Keller

Today In Care of Dad publishes its 101st blog!

It’s quite a milestone for us.  To celebrate this landmark occasion, we’re taking a look back at some of the most useful tools and resources we’ve written about here at In Care of Dad, items that have helped many people — just like you and me and my sister — to care for our aging parents.

Here are some of our favorite finds: — This wonderful service helps friends and families sharing a health crisis by offering space and access to any group, extended or otherwise, that wants to stay abreast of a loved one’s health status.  But more than that, Caringbridge helps families arrange their websites with the following format features:  1) journal entries to keep everyone up-to-date; 2) photo uploads to provide a visual component; and 3) a private message center where family and friends can deliver words of encouragement and support.  This service is easy to use and completely free!

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Sometimes No Treatment Is The Best Treatment

Posted on January 19th, 2012 by kim

hysterectomy cartoon

by Kim Keller

Did you ever wonder if all of the tests, treatments and medications that doctors order are really necessary?  Karen and I started wondering about this during our dad’s illness, and we became even more convinced it was true when our mom had a stroke a few years ago.

Naturally my curiosity was piqued when I noticed the cover story in a Newsweek from a few months ago (August 14, 2011), entitled “One Word That Will Save Your Life: No!”  Research by the author, Sharon Begley, brings to light the fact that many low-risk patients with light symptoms at best, some with no symptoms at all, suffer more harm than good from various types of tests, procedures and medications.

“There are many areas of medicine where not testing, not imaging, and not treating actually result in better health outcomes,” says Dr. Rita Redberg, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and the editor of the American Medical Associations’s Archives of Internal Medicine.  “Less is more,” she explains.

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Musical Medicine: iTunes For iHelp

Posted on January 5th, 2012 by karen

iPod, photo credit: Karen Keller Capuciati
by Karen Keller Capuciati

I’ve stumbled upon a very cool interview with Galina Mindlin, author of Your Playlist Can Change Your Life, a book about using your favorite music to enhance your health, memory, organization, alertness, and more.  The interview, conducted by Erica Hendry, can be found in the January 2012 issue of Smithsonian.

So what’s so cool about it?

According to the author, music can benefit anyone and everyone – whether you’re trying to relieve anxiety, sharpen memory, increase concentration, improve your mood or even relieve pain.  Who wouldn’t want to do ALL those things from time to time?

Imagine the benefit if, in the current culture of just take a pill, we could instead “prescribe” music to relieve our ailments?  Or, as is the concern of many In Care of Dad readers, to help someone we’re caring for.

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Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke Of Insight

Posted on August 31st, 2011 by karen


by Kim Keller

Now this is an amazing story!

Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuroanatomist, which, in everyday language, means she studies the human brain.  Fifteen years ago, while doing research at Harvard, at the shockingly young age of 37, she had a massive stroke.  Terrifying as that might seem to the average person, the experience is entirely different for a neuroanatomist.  In Dr. Taylor’s own words:  “When I realized I was having a stroke, my first reaction was, Wow, this is so cool! How many brain scientists get the opportunity to study their own brains from the inside out?

In this riveting 9-minute video, Taylor recounts the incredible story of what happened to her on the morning of her stroke, when she lost her ability to communicate, to move and to process the world around her.  It’s an inspiring story of losing all of her cherished cerebral function and then diligently working to get it back, one piece at a time, told with the unique perspective of someone with a thorough understanding of every moment in the process.

By the way, if you enjoy this video, you’ll love her book, also titled My Stroke of Insight.  Karen and I both read it and found it remarkable.  To quote Dr. Taylor, it was just, well, so cool.

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Things That Make Life A Little Easier: A Phone for Seniors

Posted on July 20th, 2011 by kim

Clarity C35 Amplified Corded Phone

An In Care of Dad Series

By Kim Keller

My friend Marti Ellerson shared a great tip with me: “The Big Phone.”

Marti’s mom, Alice, who has Alzheimer’s, was having a hard time seeing the small numbers on her phone and would often press the wrong buttons, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning.  You can imagine how someone being awoken in the middle of the night might not be especially polite about a wrong number.  This would fluster Alice and leave her feeling helpless and upset.

So Marti and her seven siblings, who call themselves “Team Alice,” looked for a solution.  They discovered Clarity — a line of telephones designed specifically for senior needs, with features that address everything from hearing or vision impairment to arthritis.

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Changing Our Relationship With What Is Difficult

Posted on July 7th, 2011 by karen

by Karen Keller Capuciati

So we’re writers now.  How about that?

When we had this idea for In Care of Dad, we were focusing mostly on how we could help other people, not on the fact that we would be writing … all the time.  We began to write and write and write, and as In Care of Dad developed, the scope of the site grew, and we had to write even more.

The funny part is, my sister Kim and I have always detested writing.  Historically, we avoided it like the plague, procrastinating until the very last minute, squirming through every part of the process.

So we have to laugh now when we say, Hey, we’re writers.

But what makes writing so difficult for us?  We don’t have any particular trouble communicating our thoughts to others verbally, so what’s the big deal about putting it in black and white?

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