The challenges and experiences of stroke patients and their spouses in Blantyre, Malawi
Stroke is the second major cause of death and disability worldwide. Most stroke survivors experience various challenges due to physical and mental impairments which increase the burden on spouses during care. The broad aim of this study was to explore the challenges and experiences of stroke patients and their spouses during and after rehabilitation at the Rehabilitation Centre in Blantyre, Malawi.
This was a qualitative exploratory study design. We conveniently selected 18 participants. Half of the population comprised patients and the other half spouses. Data were collected through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions and were analysed using thematic content analysis.
Stroke patients were found to be challenged by lack of mobility and failure to perform basic functional activities such as walking and feeding using the affected hand, which resulted in sudden dependence on the spouse for basic self-care and daily activities. In consequence, spouses were burdened by care-giving responsibilities while, on the other hand, most participants had limited access to rehabilitation and health services at the grassroots level. Moreover, congestion and lack of privacy were shown to exist at the Kachere Rehabilitation Centre due to inadequate space.
This study has managed to show some of the problems that stroke patients and spouses experience during and after rehabilitation. There is a need for early and adequate intervention to address functional limitations and facilitate return to work. Spouses should be made to understand the condition of their partner and educated regarding possible implications of the same. In addition, social and psychological support should form an inseparable part of the therapy. Stroke support groups and association could be considered as a way of enhancing social support and awareness.