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Emotional support for stroke survivors is inadequate

Two fifths of survivors feel ‘abandoned’ after leaving hospital

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 01 May 2013

Too many stroke survivors are unsupported after leaving hospital according to a new report published by the Stroke Association.

The charity’s report, Feeling Overwhelmed, is based on the findings of a survey of over 2,700 people affected by stroke. While hospital care is rated highly, the emotional strain on survivors and their families when they return home is underestimated and often overlooked by health and social care services, leaving people inadequately supported, the report finds.

According to the survey over half of stroke survivors (59%) felt depressed and two thirds (67%) experienced anxiety as a direct result of their stroke. They also reported high levels of fear of a recurrent stroke (63%), anger (48%) and lack of confidence (73%).

More than two fifths of stroke survivors (42%) said they felt abandoned after leaving hospital and nearly four fifths (79%) had received no information or practical advice to help them cope with the emotional impact of stroke.

In addition, over half of stroke survivors (53%) have experienced difficulties in their personal relationships as a result of stroke. Of these nearly three in ten had broken up with their partner or are considering doing so.

Jon Barrick, Chief Executive of the Stroke Association said: “Stroke leaves survivors and families shocked, shaken and anxious as their lives are often irreversibly changed in an instant. There are over one million stroke survivors living in the UK and with an aging population this figure is only set to increase.

“Better recognition by health and social care professionals of the impact of stroke will help people to be properly assessed and get the right support.”

The report also reveals that stroke causes an emotional shockwave for carers. Nearly eight in ten (79%) experienced anxiety, 84% felt frustrated, 60% are not getting enough sleep and five in ten (56%) reported that they felt depressed.

Over half reported feeling stressed as a result of being a carer (57%), but this increased to more than two thirds (69%) amongst those who had been caring for seven or more years. And 56% said that the relationship with the person who had a stroke had suffered or changed.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Reg Morris, Clinical Psychologist at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said: “Better recognition of the emotional effects of stroke by health and social care professionals is essential in order to address the need for integrated psychological support for survivors and their families. We know that with the right emotional, psychological and physical care more stroke survivors will have the opportunity to make their best possible recovery.”

The Stroke Association is calling for psychological and emotional support to be seen as being as important to recovery as physical rehabilitation and incorporated into the assessment process. They also call for the emotional needs of carers to be recognised and appropriate support made available to them.

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