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Half of stroke patients suffer depression or anxiety and most don't get help

The Irish Heart Foundation is urging speedy action from health authorities to ensure services focus on psychological as well as physical recovery.

Image: depressed man image via Shutterstock

TWO NEW STUDIES have found that more than half of stroke patients suffer either depression of anxiety in the six months after it happens though very few receive help for it.

Prelimiary findings from a Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) study found 22 per cent suffered depression and 32 per cent experienced significant levels of anxiety. However another new study to be launched by RCSI and the Irish Heart Foundation tomorrow reveals that just 11 per cent were able to access psychological services.

The survey also found major deficits in services to help survivors overcome the physical impact of stroke with just half having access to any speech and language therapy, or occupational therapy and one in three survivors who require physiotherapy getting none at all. There are over 50,000 people living with the effects of stroke in Ireland

Commenting on the results of the survey, Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy at the Irish Heart Foundation said the full emotional impact of stroke can be as devastating as the physical effects, “yet service levels provide no recognition of this reality whatsoever”. He said studies like these “paint a grim picture of their unmet physical and emotional needs after hospital discharge, with psychological services in particular being virtually non-existent”.

We know that whilst up to €414 million a year is spent by the State on nursing home care for stroke survivors, less than €7 million is spent on the vital community rehabilitation services that can keep people living in their homes. It is hard to escape the conclusion from these studies that after their hospital treatment, many stroke patients are being abandoned to their fate back in their communities, or in nursing homes where they get no rehabilitation unless they pay for it themselves.

Many people in the survey due to be launched tomorrow found a significant impact on close personal relationships due to feelings of dependency, personality changes, tension and problems with intimacy.

In addition to the human benefits, Macey said there is growing evidence that it is cheaper to provide community services for stroke survivors while they are well.

National Stroke Awareness week kicks off today and in the wake of the new studies, the Irish Heart Foundation is urging speedy action from the health authorities to acknowledge the cost effectiveness of stroke rehabilitation and to ensure that service improvements don’t just focus on physical recovery after stroke, but psychological recovery as well.

Read: Warning over risk if blood thinning drugs taken at wrong dose>

Read: 21 heart attack patients in every 100 die at one Irish hospital>

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