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Mary Reed
Stroke Project Co-ordinator
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Press Release - 28 November 2007

Stroke survivors call for better community support

Stroke survivors have said they need comprehensive community-based support once they are sent home from hospital, an innovative project run by the University of Bath has established.

More than 200 people who have survived strokes from the local area have taken part in the Community Stroke Project over the last four years. Lottery funding for the scheme will come to an end in December.

The project aimed to help them live as active and full a life as possible through exercise and education sessions.

As part of the project feedback, which will be outlined at a conference today, some of the volunteers have called for more practical support for survivors following their discharge from hospital care.

Their recommendations include:

“Having a stroke is a life-changing event,” said Mary Reed, co-ordinator for the Community Stroke Project in the University’s School for Health.

“People often have to come to terms with loss of mobility, loss of communication skills and impaired function.

“On top of this, they may begin to feel isolated or abandoned, which is one of the reasons depression is so high amongst stroke survivors.

“Our project has succeeded in changing this for many survivors in the region. It has inspired them to call for practical support for others who find themselves in the same situations.”

Government funding has been targeted at acute services that help people survive strokes, meaning that increasing numbers of people are coming to terms with the sudden and dramatic change in their lives in the community.

Support for them, their carers and families varies between regions, with some areas benefitting from family support workers who help survivors and their families access services and support in their communities.

“It can take up to three years to come to terms with having a stroke,” said Ms Reed.

“Family support workers can be a great support, but they are not funded in every area. Other support can be difficult to access and stroke survivors are often unaware of who to contact for help.

“Our volunteers are keen to see a legacy from the project, and we hope that their recommendations have some effect.”

The project was run by researchers from the University in partnership with the Stroke Association and Age Concern Wiltshire.

It enabled survivors to gain new skills and develop their confidence to help them overcome the physical and psychological problems they often face when recovering from a stroke.

Participants attended twice-weekly physical exercise and educational sessions over an eight- week period. As well as being fun, these sessions helped them to improve balance, strength and flexibility, preventing further injury, accidents and falls.

The interactive education sessions were facilitated by trained volunteers, overseen by a health psychologist, and covered a broad range of relevant topics, such as, relaxation techniques, psychological impacts of stroke, and goal-setting.

In total, 220 stroke survivors from all over Wiltshire, Bristol, Bath, Somerset and Wiltshire have taken part.

Olive Emm, aged 86 from Warminster, is one of the project participants and says that her involvement in the scheme gave her “a new focus in life.”

Olive was retired and working as a volunteer for her local tourist board when she had a stroke in a local supermarket in 2002. She was in the Royal United Hospital in Bath for a week and then Westbury stroke unit for three weeks.

Eighteen months after her stroke, Olive realised that after her medical rehabilitation, there was still a lot of issues she had to deal with.

“You could never imagine the change that having a stroke brings,” she said. “I could no longer work in the tourist office as I didn’t feel capable enough to cope with the public enquiries or the money side of the job. I realised that I needed more support to help get me through.”

“I needed something to give me a reason for being. Apart from the medical support, there is not really much else that helps get you back into community life.”

Another participant explained that leaving hospital felt like ‘being pushed out of plane without a parachute’.

The feedback from project participants, on issues that affect them in the community, is part of a package of information currently being delivered to Primary Care Trusts in the area.

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