When someone suffers a stroke, it can be absolutely devastating for them and their families.
Caring for people who’ve suffered from a stroke is an issue close to our hearts as our care team look after patients, day in day out who’ve suffered from this debilitating illness. For some of our carers, 80% of the patients they look after have suffered from a stroke.
It is estimated to cost the NHS £3 billion every year and impacts the economy to the tune of £4 billion every year in lost productivity, disability and informal care. It is thought that there are up to 1.2 million stroke survivors currently living in the UK.
However, the cost to sufferers as well as their family and friends often goes beyond just the financial as they experience shock, withdrawal and social isolation.
On the 29th of October, it’s World Stroke Day, which aims to raise awareness of the symptoms and effects strokes can have on sufferers as well as their friends and family. At Cera, we wanted to take the opportunity to look at the prevalence of strokes in the UK, understand its effects and where more can be done to support stroke sufferers and their families.
The picture across the UK
To get a picture of the number of people suffering a stroke in the UK, we submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all the UK’s health authorities.
Each trust was asked to submit information detailing the number of stroke diagnoses in the last three years, as well as the number of deaths attributed to strokes in the same period.
The below heat maps detail the areas in the UK with the highest prevalence of stroke diagnosis for the past three year period (where we had a response).
Stroke Diagnosis 2015/16
Stroke Diagnosis 2016/17
Stroke Diagnosis 2017/18
Specifically, we found that the number of people in the UK that have suffered a stroke grew by 4% in just one year from 2016 to 2017. This was 10% in Scotland.
The information provided by the trusts also illustrated that in the same period, the number of deaths following a stroke remained consistent at 12%.
Across the 65 Trusts that provided data, it was shown that there were just under 50,000 diagnosees of stroke in the period from 1st August 2017 to the end of July this year. Considering trusts that didn’t respond, this suggests that nationally there were over 100,000 people suffering a stroke every year in the UK.
Trusts with the highest incidences of stroke diagnoses were Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (2719 in 2017-2018), Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust (2554 in 2017-2018), King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (2196 in 2017-2018) and Bart’s Health NHS Trust (2007 in 2017-2018). This is unsurprising as these are trusts that look after large populations, and in some cases have economically more depressed catchment areas, a factor that is associated with higher rates of stroke occurrence.
For each of these four trusts, the number of stroke diagnoses has risen in the last three years.
The impact of strokes on people, their families and loved ones
Sarah McEwan from Cera:
“The impact on an individual’s life after a stroke is something that our carers see every day. They know first-hand the devastating effect it can have on the individual themselves, but also their family, friends and loved ones – often leaving those close to them feeling exhausted, anxious and distressed.
“It is so important to highlight the ongoing issue and how this is affecting thousands of families every year across the UK”.
We engaged with a number of our carers to understand their experience and detail the amount of care required for stroke survivors.
According to a selection of our carers, looking after stroke survivors is a huge part of their careers. For one carer, across a nine year career, it’s estimated that at least 80% of those in their care, had suffered a stroke. For two other carers with a 19 year career and a 17 year career respectively, it was estimated to be 60%.
Cera’s care professionals provide a range of care services including Live-in Care, Post-discharge Care, Respite Care and Dementia Care. In some cases, stroke is the primary reason why people require care, whilst in other cases, it occurs alongside other medical problems.
Suffering from a stroke is such a debilitating disease that can affect people in a varying number of ways. It can impact their speech, personal care and their ability to undertake day to day activities.
Our carers detailed the most common care needs of stroke survivors. These included assistance with:
- Eating and meal preparation
- Personal hygiene
- Keeping the house running
- Day to day tasks like getting dressed for the day
They are also required to establish a regular routine for those in their care and provide physical assistance with mobility and exercise. Helping those in their care to communicate and socialise was also highlighted as a vital task for carers.
A key aspect of the care required for stroke survivors is the importance of exercise, physiotherapy and companionship. This is vital to help them recover, as is ongoing social activity and continued contact with family and friends.
Our carers also highlighted how difficult it can be for family members to cope with the change of circumstances for their loved ones. It can often cause distress, frustration, feelings of helplessness and in some cases depression.
The data Cera has gathered through FOIs shows that the rate of strokes continues to increase (this is because the UK’s population continues to age, a factor that stroke prevalence is closely associated with) and that survival rates remain consistent.
High profile campaigns, particularly Public Health England’s FAST campaign, have done a great job raising public awareness about the symptoms of stroke and immediate action should be taken. However, with stroke sufferers struggling to reintegrate back into communities and rebuild their social lives, more support is needed to help stroke sufferers and their families maintain an active social life. As well as being good in itself, an active social life can improve a sufferers health outcomes.
For more information and details on what to do if your loved one has suffered a stroke, visit the Stroke Association.