The impact of stroke consequences on spousal relationships from the perspective of the person with stroke

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Abstract

Aims and objectives.

This paper aims to provide a subjective insight into the experience of stroke recovery within spousal relationships. The aftermath of stroke and its impact on the physical, emotional, psychological and social effects of spousal relationships are explored.

Background.

Many studies have examined observable functional recovery following stroke from the perspective of health care professionals. Longer-term effects of stroke such as changes in role and perception of self can alter significantly the dynamics of spousal relationships. Despite this, little attention has been given to the subjective impact of stroke on spousal relationships.

Design.

A qualitative study design was adopted. Individual, audio-taped interviews were carried out over three months.

Methods.

A convenience sample of 16 stroke survivors was recruited from the Stroke Nurse Specialist Register. All participants were over 18 years old and had been discharged from hospital following a diagnosis of stroke. Transcribed interviews were analysed using content data analysis to code and categorise emerging themes.

Results.

Poststroke, spousal relationships altered significantly in terms of sexuality, sexual desire and sexual functioning. Within their role of husband or wife, stroke survivors described a lack of control and dramatic changes in their perception of self.

Conclusions.

Survivors of stroke experience profound, complex and multi-faceted difficulties in many areas of their spousal relationships, which are distressing to both them and their spouses. These have a significant impact on each individual's quality of life particularly in the longer term.

Relevance to clinical practice.

Health care professionals and service providers need to understand and recognise the subjective experience of stroke and the complex difficulties that stroke survivors experience within their spousal relationships. It would appear that current service provision does not adequately address the range of needs that the stroke survivors described in this study.

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