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This article is from the WebMD News Archive

Stroke patients 'need help to cope emotionally'

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith

1st May 2013 - Many stroke survivors say they are left to struggle when they leave hospital with the emotional impact of what has happened.

A new report by the Stroke Association reveals how many people battle with depression, anxiety, relationship breakdowns and suicidal thoughts when they are discharged because they do not get emotional support from health and social care services.

It says the emotional effects can be as devastating as the physical ones because survivors are left grieving for the life and identity that has been taken so suddenly from them.

Patients, families and carers

'Feeling overwhelmed' is the third report in a series by the Stroke Association looking at the aftermath of a stroke for patients, their carers and relatives throughout the UK.

The charity says its survey of 2,700 people affected by stroke reveals a pressing need for psychological and emotional support to be seen as important part of recovery as physical rehabilitation.

The report is being published to coincide with the start of Action on Stroke Month 2013.

It found that:

  • Only two in 10 were given information, advice and support on coping with the emotional aspects of stroke
  • Almost two-thirds agreed or strongly agreed that their emotional needs were not looked after as well as their physical needs
  • Although 67% had experienced anxiety and 59% felt depressed, over half of those who responded to the survey did not receive any information, advice or support to help with anxiety or depression
  • Nearly half said their relationships or contact with friends and families had been put under strain

However, the report also focuses on the impact on carers, who also found life tough. For instance:

  • Nearly eight in 10 (79%) experienced anxiety, 84% felt frustrated, 60% are not getting enough sleep and five in 10 (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
  • Over half (56%) said that the relationship with the person who had a stroke had suffered or changed

'Shaken and anxious'

Jon Barrick, chief executive of the Stroke Association says in a statement: "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."

In a statement, Professor Reg Morris, clinical psychologist at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board says: "Depression, anxiety and fear of another stroke are common feelings amongst those touched by the condition and in the most extreme cases people can be left feeling suicidal. 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.

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