Purpose: To explore the perceived life and identity changes described by individuals following a single stroke using a life narrative approach.
Method: Individuals admitted to hospital with a stroke, no previous disability, returning home; took part in life narrative interviews in hospital, and six months and one year post-discharge. The Gross Motor subscale of the Rivermead Motor Assessment and Nottingham 10 point Activities of Daily Living Scale were completed.
Results: Eight stroke respondents (five male, three female; mean age 67 years (range 56-82). The one year mean motor score was 9 (range 7-11) and self-care score was 9 (range 7-10). All respondents described a fundamental change in their lives and identity. The main issue was a split between themselves and their body. In hospital their body appeared to become separate, precarious and perplexing. By one year the majority still found their body unreliable, and their physical ability influenced by the social setting.
Conclusion: The new experience of a split between self and body appears to be the focus of life for at least a year. This study suggests that rehabilitation professionals should consider longer-term (although not necessarily intensive) physical activity programmes that address these psychological as well as neuromuscular changes.