This is Lynda Guest, who suffered a stroke in 2010 that left her paralysed down one side and lacking in self-esteem. Her initial contact with social services was not positive. She says the social worker concentrated on her mental health and her initial care plan did not meet her needs. After more than a year a care plan that catered more for her physical disabilities was put in place, and she is now starting to regain her life.
Her case is one of a number cited in today’s Struggling to recover report from the Stroke Association, which warns a lack of assessments and knowledge on the part of professionals are hindering recovery for stroke survivors.
So what should social workers be doing to improve the situation? In this guest blog, Stroke Association stroke co-ordinator Brian Stone gives his view.
Over the years that I have worked in stroke care I have found that stroke is still regarded as one of the inevitable consequences of ageing – an awful disease that either kills you or leaves you with no hope of recovery. The reality could not be more different.
Improvements in hospital care have seen the numbers of people dying of stroke halved, while the number of major strokes has decreased by 40%. Our challenge now is to ensure these improvements are matched in the community.
I have at times experienced a gap in knowledge and understanding of social issues. Stroke survivors often experience a variety of emotional and behavioral changes after stroke, such as feelings of worthlessness, being a burden on others, emotional dependency, irritability, anger, frustration, indifference, personality change, inertia and helplessness.
However, the Stroke Association’s Life After Stroke campaign, launched today. has stroke survivors telling of the difficulties they face in getting the health and social care services they need when they return home. It shows what is possible when the right services are in place and calls on all working in health and social care to be optimistic about what stroke survivors can achieve. We believe that with the right support more people could make better recoveries after stroke. This starts by “getting the basics right”.
A good example is needs assessment (and ongoing reviews). Both of these are the gateway to people receiving health and social care services. In England, 39% of stroke survivors told us that they hadn’t been assessed and thus were missing out on services that could make a difference.
Across England, most areas have a fully implemented ‘stroke pathway’ that sets out how care should be provided in the days and weeks following a stroke. However only about half of these pathways include long-term support (including from social care). Compounding this is a lack of joint working. Our survey found that 48% of respondents said that health and social care don’t work together and this causes problems.
We’re calling on all who work with stroke survivors and their families to ensure their health and social care needs are assessed and regularly reviewed. This can prevent crisis admissions to care homes and hospitals. This is not about special pleading, more about more people getting the basics right more of the time.
Stroke costs the UK economy £8bn a year. We believe that the right provision at the right time will therefore be good not just for the individuals but also for the local health and social care economies. A life after stroke is possible and getting the basics right is the start.
Brian Stone is a stroke co-ordinator in East Sussex in a post funded by NHS Sussex and East Sussex Council. Stroke co-ordinators provide information, advice and support to survivors, among other roles.