70% of younger stroke survivors experience significant fall in income, study finds

A new Irish Heart Foundation survey of younger stroke survivors has revealed severe deficits in vital recovery services, financial hardship and widespread feelings of anxiety, anger and isolation.

The survey of working-age stroke survivors, was launched today at a gathering of 400 stroke survivors in Croke Park to mark National Stroke Survivor Day.

It found that:

  • 95% suffer anxiety due to their stroke, 75% feel depressed, 77% angry and 72% feel isolated.
  • 44% of those needing physiotherapy had to go private to access services, or received no service at all
  • 71% requiring counselling either receive no service at all or their needs aren’t being fully met.
  • 88% were working before their stroke, but only 36% are now in work.
  • 70% have experienced a significant fall in income since their stroke.

“This study underlines the alarming extent to which younger stroke survivors are struggling to get their lives back on track after leaving hospital and how little help many are getting to deal with the often profound physical and psychological impact of their brain attack,” said Irish Heart Foundation head of advocacy, Chris Macey.

“The improvements in stroke services in recent years have been achieved within the hospital system. This has resulted in thousands of additional lives being saved.

“But there has been no corresponding investment in community rehabilitation services, so stroke survivors’ recoveries are being squandered, with younger people particularly falling off the radar in terms of services.”

The study was carried out after a recent Irish Heart Foundation and HSE audit showed a 26% increase in working age stroke in just seven years – the equivalent of 300 extra younger strokes a year.

“In spite of the rapid surge in younger stroke, little or no effort is being made to reflect this changing demographic in the delivery of services back in the community,” said Mr Macey.

“If you have a stroke in your 30s, you might live with its effects for half a century. But any homecare package you get will almost certainly be designed to meet the needs of an older person.

“Indeed, the care needs of the vast majority of young stroke survivors are dealt with by the branch of HSE services that deals with older people – a fact that 70% of those with homecare packages surveyed said made them angry or annoyed.”

According to respondents, the greatest services deficits tended to be for the invisible effects of stroke.

In addition to 71% receiving inadequate counselling and psychology services, or none at all, 92% experienced fatigue but almost three-quarters did not get adequate help to deal with its effects.

In addition, over four in five respondents said their relationships with loved ones had been affected by their stroke.

Another major deficit was the lack of supports to return to work after stroke which meant that only 36% were in work, compared to 88% who were employed before their stroke. Almost two-thirds of those now with jobs were working part-time.

Some 70% said their income had been reduced substantially due to their stroke, whilst many also highlighted additional costs such as for medication, transport and heating as also contributing to high levels of financial hardship.

“All these factors are combining to create high levels of anger, anxiety, depression and isolation that not only impede recovery, but may increase the risk of another stroke. It makes no sense that huge effort and expertise is going in to saving people’s lives only for them then to be abandoned at the hospital gates,” added Mr Macey.

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