Background. Stroke is a common and enduring problem, producing a wide range of effects that may impact on all aspects of life. One area that has seldom been investigated is the effects of stroke on ability to eat and, particularly, stroke survivors’ subjective experiences of eating-related difficulties.
Aim. To investigate stroke survivors’ reports of eating-related experiences 6 months after stroke.
Methods. Participants were 206 survivors of acute stroke who were admitted to hospital between March 1998 and April 1999. Those able to communicate and who gave informed consent participated in a semi-structured interview and assessment of eating abilities in their homes 6 months after their stroke. Interviews were tape recorded and transcribed and 113 interviews with eating disabled participants were entered onto QSR NUD*IST 4 for thematic analysis. Analyses were later checked independently.
Findings. At 6 months, 34%, 61% and 5% had no, slight and moderate eating disablements, respectively. A range and variety of difficulties were discussed, but relationships between degrees of disablement and handicap were not straightforward; effects seemed more closely related to participants’ responses than objective difficulties. Eating and related activities were clearly important aspects of life for these stroke survivors, socially and psychologically, as well as functionally. Prestroke activities were sometimes maintained, with considerable effort.
Conclusions. Findings indicated issues of relevance for those involved with early rehabilitation interventions and highlighted aspects of continuing care service delivery that warrant review. The relative lack of attention paid to eating-related aspects of care is an important oversight.