Researchers to improve the quality of life for stroke survivors

Researchers at the University of Birmingham are investigating how to improve the quality of life for stroke survivors in nursing and residential homes, by helping them to become more active.

Prof. Cath Sackley of the School of Health Sciences, has been awarded £740,000 by The Health Foundation and Department of Health to investigate the effects of physiotherapy and occupational therapy on people with stroke in a care home setting.  The study will form part of the professor's inaugural public lecture, Step to It - Mobility and Health, which takes place at 5.15pm on 6 May at the University's Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

More than 400 people from nursing and residential homes in Birmingham and the West Midlands will take part in the three-year study, which aims to assess the benefits of a targeted occupational therapy and physiotherapy intervention for people in care homes, following a stroke. In particular, it will evaluate the ability of therapy to improve mobility, improve independence and reduce immobility related complications and falls hazards.

The study will also be accompanied by an economic evaluation, which will document costs of providing therapeutic services in care-homes.  The economic consequences of rehabilitation provision are especially important in influencing change once the study is finished.  If the study demonstrates any benefits for stroke survivors, Prof. Sackley and her team will use the results of the study to influence change to policy of access to rehabilitation services for residents of care-homes in the UK.

Findings show that stroke is the most common cause of admission to long-term care and many others have strokes once they are resident.  The exact proportion of people living in care-homes with a stroke is unknown, but it is thought to be around 50 per cent of all residents.

Prof. Sackley said: "Our research has shown that people living in a care-home often experience the adverse consequences of stroke-related immobility, such as dependency in self-care ability, falls, reduced bone density, pain, pressure sores and emotional distress. Quality of life can be poor and residents are commonly disadvantaged in their access to NHS healthcare. Our recent work has shown that despite the potential for recovery in this group, few residents have any access to rehabilitation. 

"The scope and benefits of rehabilitation are poorly understood by many care home staff who do not receive the training to know when or with which problems to refer residents for rehabilitation. There has been very little research into the value of rehabilitation services delivered to care-home residents in the UK.  By contrast in North America, services are much more readily available and research has provided evidence that rehabilitation is valuable in improving residents' standard of life."

The current research follows Prof. Sackley's pilot work in Nottingham and Oxford, which was funded by The Stroke Association (UK) and the Department of Health. The results demonstrated that a small amount of contact from a qualified occupational therapist prevented the deterioration experienced by residents and had a long-term impact on their quality of life.

The University of Birmingham has also demonstrated its commitment to the care of the elderly with stroke by funding Prof Sackley's chair. It is the first research chair in physiotherapy in UK. Prof. Sackley's inaugural lecture on 6 May is open to all members of the public and entry to the event is free. For further details please contact Sarah Jenkins on 0121 414 5469.

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