Help wanted – needs not being met for Canadians living with stroke

Jul 13th, 2017 | By | Category: Healthy Living

In a recent press release, The Heart & Stroke Foundation unveiled it’s 2017 Stroke Report, which it states reveals extensive gaps in recovery support and services for Canadians who experience stroke at any age. According the Foundation, half of stroke survivors need help with daily activities such as eating, bathing, dressing, going to the washroom and getting around. Many deficits are “hidden” such as memory issues, depression or fatigue, or behaviour issues in kids. These issues are not well understood, and overall many needs are not being met.

“We know stroke can happen at any age,” says Yves Savoie, CEO, Heart & Stroke. “We need to ensure all Canadians who experience stroke and their families receive support and that they are at the centre of care, their personal goals are understood, and they are involved every step of the way as recovery progresses and their needs change.”

According to the release, age is the strongest risk factor for stroke and the population is aging; at the same time stroke in younger people is on the rise — at a rate faster than older adults. There are more than 400,000 Canadians living with long-term disability from stroke and this will almost double in the next 20 years.

The following are highlights from the release:

Lasting – and misunderstood — effects

The effects of stroke range from mild to severe, and can be obviously physical limitations or more subtle. One in three stroke survivors is diagnosed with aphasia, a language problem that affects the ability to talk with and understand others. Between one-third and one-half develop depression; and between one-third and three-quarters have post-stroke fatigue. However, according to a poll commissioned by Heart & Stroke, fewer than 3% of Canadians identified fatigue or depression as lasting effects associated with stroke.

Challenges for everybody

Stroke affects quality of life and influences family relationships. While some excellent resources are available in communities, they are too few and mostly in major centres. Barriers exist around awareness, access and cost. Recovery needs can change over time and some challenges are specific to particular ages but others are consistent across life stages.

A family affair

Two-thirds of stroke survivors return home and family caregivers play an essential role in their recovery. The stroke caregiver role starts abruptly and they rarely receive the preparation they need. They must adapt quickly and learn to be experts and advocates, attend appointments, and update various health professionals. Caregivers can experience negative impacts on their mental and physical health and on their work/career and finances, and have less time for other family obligations.

According to the poll of Canadians, 31% of respondents said they would not feel capable of personally caring for a family member who experienced stroke. Their top three concerns are: lack of skills and ability to provide care, finances and not having free time or help from others.

Stroke in younger adults (20 – 59 years) is on the rise, at a rate faster than older adults. This “sandwich generation” faces unique recovery challenges around being able to drive again, returning to work or school, and raising young families while looking after older parents. Funding for recovery support services is limited; in general services exist for those under 18 and over 65 but not for those in between. This lack of benefits can be financially devastating.

The average older stroke patient has five other chronic conditions (co-morbidities), adding complexity to their recovery. Often the primary caregiver is elderly and also has chronic conditions. Many older stroke patients and their caregivers face issues around isolation and depression.

Written by the Heart & Stroke Foundation. For more information or to read the report, visit

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