Stroke damages spouses' sense of well-being

July 05, 2001

DALLAS - The effects of a stroke are all in the family, according to a study that indicates spouses suffer psychological ill-effects immediately after their mate has a stroke, researchers report in the July issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

In one of the first studies to examine short-term psychological effects of a stroke on a group of patient's spouses, researchers found that spouses experience a sharp decline in their sense of well-being and a sharp rise in psychological stress within days of their mate's stroke. This can affect the spouse's ability to support the stroke survivor, which is crucial to the rehabilitation and recovery of the stroke patient.

The emotional and practical support of the caregiver is known to affect the functional and psychosocial outcome of the stroke patient, says Gunilla Forsberg-Wärleby, B.S., a registered occupational therapist at the Institution of Clinical Neuroscience at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Göteborg, Sweden. Earlier studies have shown that spouses cope better with practical issues than with emotional ones.

"Our research indicates that it is very important for health professionals to pay attention to the spouses' psychological health as well as the patient's. Giving spouses the reinforcement they need to take an active part in the care and rehabilitation of their partners will improve their outlook and sense of well-being," says Forsberg-Wärleby.

Previous studies have traced the psychological impact of stroke on families over time and found that 20 percent to 50 percent of caregivers experience emotional disturbances, especially depression.

Using a questionnaire and interview, Swedish researchers measured the perceived psychological well-being of 83 spouses of stroke patients during 10 days following the stroke. The stroke patients ranged in age from 23 to 75 with an average age of 58, three-fourths were men. The average age of their spouses was 57 and the average length of their relationships was 30 years. Researchers compared the spouses' sense of well-being to the level of impairment in the stroke patient.

Most of the spouses showed significantly lower psychological well-being compared with a normal population. The extent of disability of the stroke patients, such as motor skill impairment, correlated with the spouses' outlook of the future. There was no gender difference noted, as both husbands and wives showed virtually identical reductions in emotional well-being.

"It's easy to assume that the spouse's psychological well-being may affect the ability to give emotional and practical support," Forsberg-Wärleby says. "This is an important question that needs to be investigated. "In its first phase, a stroke is usually an unexpected event, one perceived as an existential threat that causes a breakdown in everyday life," she notes. "Being given more detailed information by health care professionals about what to expect, and how to deal with problems that arise, can help spouses overcome their negative psychological reactions, adapt better to the circumstances and develop a more positive attitude toward the future."

But merely making this information available isn't enough, the research shows. "The spouse needs to be able to integrate the information as knowledge," explains Forsberg-Wärleby. "To achieve this, the information must be given in a respectful way that gives the spouse a sense of importance in the patient's recovery and is based on the spouse's own perceived needs. "It's very important for health professionals to pay attention to the spouse's psychological health as well as the patient's," she notes.
Co-authors of the study are Anders Möller, Ph.D., and Christian Blomstrand, M.D., Ph.D. NR01-1307 (Stroke/Forsberg-Wärleby)

Editor's note: The American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, provides information and support services for stroke survivors and their families through the Stroke Family Support Network. For more information call 1-888-4-STROKE.

CONTACT: For journal copies only, please call: 214-706-1396. For other information, call: Carole Bullock: 214-706-1279. Bridgette McNeill: 214-706-1135.

American Heart Association

Related Stroke Articles from Brightsurf:

Stroke alarm clock may streamline and accelerate time-sensitive acute stroke care
An interactive, digital alarm clock may speed emergency stroke care, starting at hospital arrival and through each step of the time-sensitive treatment process.

Stroke patients with COVID-19 have increased inflammation, stroke severity and death
Stroke patients who also have COVID-19 showed increased systemic inflammation, a more serious stroke severity and a much higher rate of death, compared to stroke patients who did not have COVID-19, according a retrospective, observational, cross-sectional study of 60 ischemic stroke patients admitted to UAB Hospital between late March and early May 2020.

'Time is vision' after a stroke
University of Rochester researchers studied stroke patients who experienced vision loss and found that the patients retained some visual abilities immediately after the stroke but these abilities diminished gradually and eventually disappeared permanently after approximately six months.

More stroke awareness, better eating habits may help reduce stroke risk for young adult African-Americans
Young African-Americans are experiencing higher rates of stroke because of health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, yet their perception of their stroke risk is low.

How to help patients recover after a stroke
The existing approach to brain stimulation for rehabilitation after a stroke does not take into account the diversity of lesions and the individual characteristics of patients' brains.

Kids with headache after stroke might be at risk for another stroke
A new study has found a high incidence of headaches in pediatric stroke survivors and identified a possible association between post-stroke headache and stroke recurrence.

High stroke impact in low- and middle-income countries examined at 11th World Stroke Congress
Less wealthy countries struggle to meet greater need with far fewer resources.

Marijuana use might lead to higher risk of stroke, World Stroke Congress to be told
A five-year study of hospital statistics from the United States shows that the incidence of stroke has risen steadily among marijuana users even though the overall rate of stroke remained constant over the same period.

We need to talk about sexuality after stroke
Stroke survivors and their partners are not adequately supported to deal with changes to their relationships, self-identity, gender roles and intimacy following stroke, according to new research from the University of Sydney.

Standardized stroke protocol can ensure ELVO stroke patients are treated within 60 minutes
A new study shows that developing a standardized stroke protocol of having neurointerventional teams meet suspected emergent large vessel occlusion (ELVO) stroke patients upon their arrival at the hospital achieves a median door-to-recanalization time of less than 60 minutes.

Read More: Stroke News and Stroke Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to