Mentors: Providing Support To Stroke Survivors

By Walt Kilcullen



If you are a stroke survivor, you were probably first stabilized in a hospital. Then you went to a rehabilitation center. After you had advanced to a certain point, or your insurance ran out, you went home. Whatever your disability, you began the process of adjusting to your new life. You had probably been an active person. You may have worked, volunteered, or traveled. In short, you probably were a busy person.


Every survivor faces different physical, emotional, and cognitive problems after the stroke. The two most common problems involve learning to deal with idle time and regaining independence. If this sounds like you - bored and depressed with too much idle time - try finding a mentor.


A mentor is someone who is there to listen to your problems and to help you to make decisions that will enhance your life. I have been a volunteer mentor for the Brain Injury Association of New Jersey for the past seven years. I presently mentor four stroke survivors and three traumatic brain injury survivors. I consider myself a friend of all seven.


Betty, 60 years old, has suffered three strokes and I have been her mentor for three years. She states, “Walt is my mentor and friend. We talk on the phone each week and we have dinner twice each month before we attend a support group meeting. He has helped me in a number of ways, but most of all he has helped me enjoy life.”


My early contact as a mentor with a stroke survivor includes weekly telephone calls, weekly e-mails, letters that include articles on stroke, holiday cards, and occasional meetings for lunch or at a support group. Later on, I help them with three objectives:




Establish daily and weekly routines.

Get up in the morning the same time every day.


This prevents the tendency to stay in bed too long, which results in boredom and depression.



Concentrate on independence.

Do as much for yourself as   possible.


This has both mental and physical benefits.



Establish goals that you want to achieve.

Goals might include:


• Find and use a county or local bus service so you can get around on your own.


• Join a support group and attend monthly meetings .


• Take a course for fun at the local high school, community college or technical school


• Try art as therapy. Get a color by numbers box from your near-by department store. If you like that, progress to a basic art class often offered at an art gallery, a crafts store, or a continuing education facility.


• Exercise gym. See if the local hospital or the Y has a  program. Go two or three times each week as part of your routine.


• Part-time job. Each state and county has a department specifically for people with disabilities to help you find a job.


• Volunteer. Go to, a nationwide website which will point you to volunteer needs in your geographic area.



Of course all of these goals do not match every survivor. You must establish your own goals to meet your needs and interests.


Finding a mentor takes a little perseverance. Start by accessing your state Brain Injury Association web-site. Arizona, Georgia Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey have such programs and so do many other states. If your state does not have a mentoring program, then contact the nearest rehab hospital to see if they offer a program.


If you cannot find a mentoring program, you can still implement the above objectives. Perhaps you and your caregiver can find another survivor and caregiver and together you can establish goals, start a weekly lunch date, and attend social events together. What ever you do, get involved and be as independent as possible.



Copyright © September 2009

The Stroke Network, Inc.

P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009

All rights reserved.