Being a stroke patient: a review of the literature


Thóra B. Hafsteinsdóttir, Nursing Researcher, Department of Neurology, University Hospital Utrecht, PO Box 85500, NL-3508 GA Utrecht, The Netherlands.


The purpose of this paper is to review the research literature on the patient's experience of stroke. Four qualitative studies on how patients experience stroke were identified. The findings of these studies show that the stroke patient often has clear goals for himself in relation to functional abilities, against which he measures all success and forward progress in his rehabilitation. Even though the stroke patient accepts a lower level of functional ability, he is not willing to accept the rehabilitation professionals' prediction of his ultimate functional level if it is lower than his own goal. Furthermore, stroke patients see recovery as a return to the existence they had lived before the stroke, which is different from the health care providers' view. To the health care provider, recovery is measured in terms of isolated and discrete return of movement, whereas in the eyes of the patients, recovery is a return to previously valued activities. Further, studies on psychosocial function after stroke were reviewed. Recent studies show that the psychological impact of the stroke experience is immense and that stroke patients experience stress on a variety of levels. Also, depression exists in a large portion of the stroke population. The impact of stroke also influences the patient's social existence, as studies have shown that stroke patients do manifest diminished social function. However, the reviewed studies are not without limitations. Further studies, with a qualitative design, are needed to throw light on the patient's experience of being ill with stroke, and the process of his recovery.