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Mary Jo C.

Healthcare Professional and Caregiver

Giving Back Quality of Life to Stroke Survivors

As the wife of a stroke survivor and in my position as a nurse-educator, I have been talking and listening to stroke survivors and caregivers for the past three years. Counseling, educating and living with the same problems they have, I find that most of the time, I can only empathize with them, unable to offer a solution or help for their unique problems. From these contacts, I have seen how stroke survivors are abandoned by the government, medical insurance and society, in general, once they have completed the therapy that medical insurance will pay for. I see how the stroke survivor is isolated when the caregiver must return to work, and the stroke survivor is left at home alone to fill the day. I receive calls from desperate stroke survivors looking for further therapy. I receive calls from caregivers because their stroke survivor is depressed and regressing, losing the gains made during rehabilitation, as they vegetate in front of the television.

In the past, very little was done for stroke survivors. They were sent to nursing homes or kept at home with little or no rehabilitation or hope. It is now known that recovery can continue throughout a stroke survivor’s life, as long as the survivor continues to be an active participant in life and therapy. Due to the rising costs in health care, the number of treatment days paid for by medical insurance is being reduced.

I went to speak at the only stroke activity center in the United States, the Palm Springs Stroke Activity Center in California. It is funded by an endowment and provides continued speech, physical, and recreation therapy free of charge to stroke survivors. Open five days a week, the center provides free lunch, activities, and therapy throughout the day. They have a theater in which stroke survivors perform, a beauty salon, and a Ham Radio Center, among other special services. Many stroke survivors are volunteers at the center.

I returned with the goal of opening the second stroke activity center here in New Jersey. With much work and luck, the New Jersey Stroke Activity Center, Inc. (NJSAC) has been established as a non-profit corporation and is ready to begin providing therapy at little cost for stroke survivors whose medical insurance coverage has ended. NJSAC is now negotiating with several hospital systems for rooms to provide physical, speech, art, music and dance therapy and activities for stroke survivors. Outcome based research will be conducted to demonstrate that these services reduce health care costs and enhance recovery of stroke survivors.

NJSAC is establishing a client list of stroke survivors who need these services. If you are interested in becoming a part of this innovative service, please call Mary Jo Candido at 973-450-1314.  The slogan of NJSAC is We begin...where others leave off. 


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