Earlier this month I met with the Stroke Association to hear about their latest report, Feeling Overwhelmed.
Based on survey work with stroke survivors and their carers, the report looks at the emotional impact that strokes have on people and their families. The report is supported by case studies and finds how emotional impact has often been overlooked when it comes to providing support.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to parts of the brain becomes cut off. The severity of strokes and the impact on survivors can vary. The Stroke Association’s website provides an excellent summary of the range of challenges facing stroke survivors.
For many survivors, there is intense frustration associated with not being able to complete simple, everyday tasks that had previously been taken for granted. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression developing following a stroke. Despite this, almost two-thirds of survivors strongly agreed that their emotional needs were not addressed as well as their physical needs and only one in five were given information, advice and support.
The emotional impact of stroke is also felt by carers who, in many cases, are related to the survivor. Caring can place a huge demand on an individual and without the right support and respite it can be difficult to cope. The report found that less than a quarter of carers felt that they had the right support leaving many feeling guilty about struggling.
The report also acknowledges the strain placed on relationships between a stroke survivor and their family and friends and considers the particular issues associated with childhood stroke survivors.
The findings of the report have led the Stroke Association to make a number of calls to action to tackle the gaps in emotional support that exist. These action points cover aspects of emotional support for survivors, carers and others throughout the stroke journey including information provision, regular assessment, access to support services, use of peer support, monitoring of progress and sharing of best practice. They are also calling for increased investment in the provision of clinical psychologists.
My meeting with staff and volunteers brought home directly to me people’s real experiences in the Lothians. While the general view was that hospital treatment addressed people’s initial physical recovery, support afterwards was seen as patchy. The challenge of getting back to work was seen as a vital issue for working age survivors with the lack of confidence which can come from a stroke, making it hard to get back to an existing job or find a new career.
I’ve agreed to get in touch with local authorities in the Lothians to raise the issues of social care offered to stroke survivors and to do what I can to help raise awareness about what people can do to reduce the chance of getting a stroke.