Previous research has found that around 70% of elderly stroke patients are dependent on help from their partner. Most of this informal care is provided by elderly women.
“The women saw their partners more as patients than as husbands,” Gunilla Gosman Hedström explains. “They felt tied down with little time to devote to their own needs, and the partner's altered personality meant that many had cut down on socialising.
“Many have little time to themselves. They try to create time to carry out everyday activities, but the men struggle to be by themselves. For many women, the only chance of some ‘own time’ was to silent get out of bed once their partner was asleep for the night.”
Despite the negative aspects, the women in the study wanted to continue to care for their husbands at home. However, they did call for more support, such as dayrehabilitation, longer periods of respite care, and greater consideration from health care- and social services. The researchers’ conclusion is that relatives should be offered special educational and training programmes, support groups of women in the same situation, and greater scope for individualized long-term action plans as different problems arise.
“If relatives did not provide this care, the health care- and social services would face a huge need for new care places at a cost far in excess of that of providing more support for informal carers,” says Gunilla Gosman-Hedström. “These women find that their help and support are taken for granted – in many cases they’re not even asked at discharge whether they’re actually able and willing to take care of their partner.”
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