When a stroke strikes the heart of a close family, there are lots of barriers to overcome and many ups and downs along the rehabilitation journey.
Normally the first contact with the health service is the acute hospital admission to the A&E department, it is then common to be transferred on to an acute stroke unit where a team comprising of a Consultant, Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist, Speech and Language Therapist, Clinical Psychologist, Nurse, Orthotist and Dietician become involved. Good communication and multi-disciplinary team involvement to support both the stroke survivor and the family are key.
Moving on from an acute hospital ward can then either mean more in-patient based rehabilitation, or discharge home with a community rehabilitation package. Physiotherapy is a discipline that aims to restore movement through a variety of treatment techniques. This may be strength training, working on function based practice (for example, practice getting in and out of a chair, walking or stairs practice). Physiotherapists also use a variety of rehabilitation devices to aid in the return of movement post stroke. An example of this is FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation), this now has been recommended in NICE guidance as a treatment that should be available to stroke survivors if they are assessed to be appropriate.
Rehabilitation is a long journey, it begins at the admission to the A&E department, but goes on for many years after the stroke. It is important that both families and stroke survivors receive as much support along the way to adapt to life after stroke.
See the following Birmingham Mail extract where Linsey from Complete Neuro Physio is pictured treating a very motivated stroke survivor along his rehabilitation journey.
What happens when a stroke strikes at the heart of a family
More than half of carers of stroke victims are stressed whilst the majority feel frustrated, according to a report released today. Health Correspondent Anuji Varma talks to one woman about how her family has coped after her father suffered a stroke.
It was how Alan Skett had dreamed of spending his retirement.
He’d play golf three or four times a week at his club near his home in Halesowen.
And in the evenings he would take his wife, Wendy, 65, out for a nice meal or go line dancing or socialise with their friends.
The active father-of-two would also spend one day a week back at his old job in quality assurance to keep busy.
However, in May last year his life was turned upside down.
Going to bed one night, the 69-year-old woke up the next day having suffered a stroke. Wendy, also retired, knew something was wrong with her loving husband when he began slurring his words.
Daughter Amy Murray, 35, who writes a blog about her dad, recalled: “When my mum woke up that morning, she was aware that dad was slurring his words, she joked with him about making a cup of tea and he slurred.
“Then she noticed he couldn’t move off the bed and she thought it seemed as though he had a stroke.
“She dialled 999 and he was rushed to Russells Hall Hospital.
“By the time he got there he was still coherent and asked for me to call one of his friends who he was supposed to be having a golf game with to cancel.
“We were told that he had a stroke but because of how he was we thought he would get through it. He was talking and understood what was going on.”
But the family were sadly mistaken. Grandad Alan had suffered a severe stroke.
He soon went into a deep sleep, and when he woke up three days later his condition had deteriorated.
He was kept in hospital for five weeks. During that time the family were told how bad the attack really was.
“Doctors said he would never walk again, and that he would need help with every aspect of his life,” says Amy, a civil servant.
“At the time it went in one ear and out the other. You can’t really register what they are saying, or what is happening.
“It’s taken us all until now to appreciate what he has lost.”
Whilst in hospital, it was clear that Alan would need round-the-clock care and he was found a place at a private facility in Coseley when he was discharged five weeks later.
He needed to learn how to sit up again and the left side of his body still doesn’t work. Recently, he was diagnosed with vascular dementia and hardly remembers conversations he has.
“My dad is a completely different person,” adds Amy, who is married with three step children.
“He hasn’t got the cognition to think things through. He looks at a newspaper and can turn the page, but I don’t know if he reads it.
“He can now sit up and doesn’t need a hoist. But he does need people to help him as he still cannot walk. You can see that he is frustrated.
“He also gets very concerned and protective over the left side of his body. If you just touch it, he shouts out in pain and sometimes will swear. Before this happened I had never heard him curse. He was a different man, who was very gentle.”
Although his short term memory is practically none existent and long term memory very poor, he is still able to recall songs and singers.
“Music and singing is something he can continue to enjoy,” adds Amy. “A fellow resident at the care home plays the guitar and plays regularly for Dad which allows him to join in and sing.
“He sometimes breaks down in tears when listening to the music.
“We asked for Dad to go on anti depressants to help reduce the tearful emotions which he was regularly experiencing.
“Sometimes when we leave at night he thinks we will never go back to see him and that he is left on his own which makes him upset.”
But sometimes support from health bodies can also be lacking, although some therapists have been invaluable, as the family have found.
Amy adds: “More money should be invested in the rehabilitation of stroke survivors. It needs to be easily accessible and you shouldn’t have to fight for it.”
The impact of Alan’s stroke on the family has been devastating.
But what has kept them going is the fact they are extremely close.
“We all cope with it in our own way. We are a very close family and this has brought us closer. We do what we can,” she explains.
It has affected each family member differently.
Son Dan, a businessman, found it difficult to juggle his time between home life with his young family and work before the stroke.
Now his dad’s situation means before giving commitment to anything business or family related, consideration is always given to Alan first, which can create pressures from other priorities.
Amy, too, has made sacrifices. “I have had to make the decision to defer my final year of studying for a qualification at work because I could not mentally cope with studying as well as carrying out a full time job, keeping on top of my Dad’s care and health needs and supporting my family as well.
“The numerous hospital appointments I attend with Dad means it impacts on the amount of time I take off from work and then I have to work longer days to catch up. Although I missed a huge chunk of my netball season last year, I try to make sure I still play now as it is my form of escapism.
“Mum catches two buses to see dad every day at the care home and we all pull together to make sure she has a lift back home. Her social life has disappeared. She used to go to Halesowen Golf Club with my Dad regularly for meals, social events and line dancing. This hasn’t happened since Dad had his stroke last May.
“She still sees some of her friends but very rarely. It really has transformed our lives.”
* Read Amy’s blog at http://alanskett recoveryafterstroke.blogspot.co.uk/
Emotional impact ‘is overlooked’
A report carried out on stroke survivors and their families in the West Midlands today reveals many feel they are abandoned when they leave hospital.
The Stroke Association study lays bare the full emotional impact of the condition, which can be as devastating as the physical effects.
The charity’s report, Feeling Overwhelmed, is based on the findings of a survey of more than 285 people from across the West Midlands 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.