• aged care;
  • female perspective;
  • hermeneutics;
  • rehabilitation;
  • stroke

Aim.  To illuminate older women’s experiences and the characteristics of the recovery process following a stroke.

Background.  Patients with stroke face serious challenges related to bodily changes, existential aspects and daily life after stroke. Few qualitative longitudinal studies have examined the recovery process from the perspective of the patient. Knowledge about older women’s experiences in coping with life after a stroke is limited.

Design.  Prospective, longitudinal, case-study design.

Methods.  Six women aged 68–83 suffering from first-time stroke were recruited from two stroke units. Each participant was interviewed in-depth 12–14 times during the first two years post stroke. The interviews addressed how they experienced their body, their self-understanding, daily life and how this had changed over time. Most interviews took place in the participants’ homes. Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics informed the analyses.

Results.  Post stroke recovery was slow and complex and evolved through four distinct phases. In the first phase (0–2 months post stroke), the participants’ main concerns were their bodily changes; in the second phase (2–6 months), activities of daily life; in the third phase (6–12 months), self-understanding and in the fourth phase (12–24 months), going on with life. The transition between phases was gradual.

Conclusion.  Recovery from stroke evolves over time through four distinct phases, which differ depending on significant experiences and associated meanings. Psychological and social resources are equally critical in the women’s process of recovery.

Relevance to clinical practice.  The four phases of rehabilitation suggest at what points various concerns require increased therapeutic attention. Psychological and social resources must be vitalised at an early phase similar to bodily resources. This knowledge may assist professionals in offering adequate help throughout the recovery process even beyond the established rehabilitation period.