The meaning of rehabilitation for older people who have survived stroke

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hjelmblink f, holmström i & sanner m (2009) Journal of Nursing and Healthcare of Chronic Illness1, 186–195

The meaning of rehabilitation for older people who have survived stroke


To explore the meaning of rehabilitation to older, Swedish stroke survivors, from the time of the acute stroke to the end of the rehabilitation.


Many people who are stroke survivors do not resume social activities even though they have regained physical functions. However, the contents of stroke rehabilitation seems to depend on whether rehabilitation is understood from the disease perspective or the illness perspective contained in the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. This in turn may determine the kind of rehabilitation offered to survivors.


Inductive, qualitative interview study undertaken during 2003.


Nineteen Swedish stroke survivors were interviewed twice, and the interviews were analysed using a Grounded Theory approach.


To the older survivors, the meaning of rehabilitation was social reintegration. To achieve this they tried to regain lost physical and cognitive functions, relations (including play activities, everyday narratives and self-esteem) and lost certainty. The survivors needed to regain their ability to be not only to perform social activities. However, their rehabilitation ended when its focus turned to impairments found in the illness experiences of the survivors. The survivors developed their own cognitive and behavioural strategies for overcoming these kinds of obstacles to their social reintegration.


Older, Swedish stroke survivors strive for a socially integrated life. Unacknowledged impairments experienced from the illness perspective of the survivors and the survivors' own rehabilitation strategies should therefore be considered in their rehabilitation.

Relevance to clinical practice.

Stroke survivors need support from professionals who can understand and acknowledge the illness perspective of rehabilitation. Professionals should be able to understand how to facilitate the cognitive and behavioural strategies found in survivors' illness narratives. In order to socially reintegrate, survivors' rehabilitation should be transferred to the places where they have previously performed play activities together with family and friends.

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