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Chinese elderly patients’ perceptions of their rehabilitation needs following a stroke


May H.L. Lui Department of Nursing, Room 526, Sino Building Chung Chi College, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong. E-mail:


Chinese elderly patients’ perceptions of their rehabilitation needs following a stroke

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and disability among Chinese elderly patients in Hong Kong and yet the rehabilitation needs of these patients are rarely explored. The aim of this study was to identify the rehabilitation needs of Chinese elderly patients following a stroke. The study adopted an ethnographic approach, information being gathered by the researcher through interviews with 15 key informants selected by purposive sampling. The perceptions of patients as to their own needs were sought at three stages of recovery — in the acute and rehabilitation settings and at 1 month following discharge.

Ethical approval was gained from the Chinese University Faculty of Medicine ethical committee and access agreed by the hospital authorities. Verbal approval was gained from the patients before each interview, following confirmation of the voluntary nature of participation and assurance of confidentiality and anonymity. The researcher’s role was also clearly stated.

Analysis of the interview data produced five categories of patient need at the three stages of recovery, namely informational, physical, psychological, social and spiritual. The most frequently stated, but largely unmet, need in all settings was the need for information, particularly information about the reasons for stroke and about the activities that promote recovery. In the acute and rehabilitation settings patients’ responses indicated a need to be respected as individuals, to be addressed by name and to be provided with privacy. Although the Barthel Index administered during interviews charted recovery at different rates, nurses did not always make links between the level of functional ability and the help needed with physical tasks. They also failed to recognize the relationship between physical and psychological needs and the equal importance of both in recovery from stroke. As Chinese elderly patients tend to take a passive role in seeking help and information, nurses play a significant role in the identification of individual rehabilitation needs. Implications for nursing practice are discussed.