Living with stroke: a phenomenological study
Understanding how stroke sufferers experience their stroke and recovery is essential if the development of rehabilitation services is to be effective and appropriate. Previous research in this area has tended to be either cross-sectional or with a limited amount of informant follow-up, and consequently has limited utility. This paper describes a study underpinned by a phenomenological approach, which tracked the experiences of six patients admitted to a rehabilitation unit in the north-west of England. Informants were followed for at least 12 months after stroke, and a total of 73 interviews were undertaken during the study. The data demonstrate that recovery from stroke involved restructuring and adaptation in physical, social and emotional aspects of an individual’s life. Two important features of recovery were highlighted. First, whilst aspects of pre-stroke life may be used to describe individual progress, no end-point to recovery was identified as informants described and anticipated life with stroke. Second, informants focused on the social context of recovery where engagement in the social world was emphasized over discrete physical function. Although no common path of recovery was found, it is recommended that stroke services are structured to take account of the long-term needs of stroke patients and their families in their home environment.