Purpose: To describe levels of attention deficits among people with stroke living in the community and explore relationships between attention, balance, function and falls.
Method: Forty-eight mobile community-dwelling people with stroke (30 men, 18 women, mean age 68.4 +/- 11.2) were recruited to this cross-sectional investigation through General Practitioners. Twenty-six participants had a right, 21 a left hemisphere infarction and one had a brain stem lesion; mean time since stroke was 46 months (range five to 204). Participants' were interviewed about fall-events; attention, balance and function were assessed using standardised tests.
Results: Visual inattention was identified in five participants (10%), deficits of sustained attention in 15 (31%), auditory selective attention in nine (19%), visual selective attention in 17 (35%) and divided attention deficits in 21 participants (43%). Sustained and divided attention scores correlated with balance, ADL ability and fall-status (p < 0.01). The balance and function of subjects with normal attention were better than those with abnormal scores (p < 0.01). Analysis of variance revealed differences between repeat-fallers and non-fallers with no near-falls for divided attention, balance and ADL ability (p < 0.01).
Conclusions: Attention deficits were common among this sample; sustained and divided attention deficits correlated with functional impairments and falls, highlighting that attention deficits might contribute to accident prone behaviour and falling.