Purpose: The purpose of this study was to learn more about individual beliefs and personal strategies used to support the period of recovery after stroke. It sought to identify the factors that were perceived to be enablers as well as challenges to recovery. Personal actions or experiences, which were perceived to be effective in influencing progress, would be identified.
Method: Qualitative in-depth interviews were carried out with 10 participants (mean age 61.8 years). Time following stroke onset ranged between 6 weeks and 13 months. All participants had some residual activity limitation and three participants had varying degrees of aphasia. The interviews were approximately 60 - 90 minutes and all data was subjected to content analysis.
Results: Analyses of interview data identified two main themes which were perceived to have influenced progress after stroke. The first related to internal factors such as personal control over progress, optimism and fears of dependency and the second included more external factors, such as the influence of therapeutic interactions and success with a specified marker of independence such as dressing, washing and walking.
Conclusion: An important finding of this study was that individuals all identified a number of specific factors which had supported or hindered their own recovery. There were a diversity of both internal/personal and external factors which may not be surprising, given the complexity of stroke, but all participants stressed the importance of both factors. The findings from this study are preliminary and relate only to this particular group of participants, as such they cannot be generalizable to the stroke population as a whole. However, the interaction between the two themes identified requires further exploration, especially in relation to therapy which could have both a positive and negative influence on personal control. There is a clear need to understand how professionals can, in the first place, take time to identify each individual's preferences and personal goals and secondly, make sure that these are fully addressed in a planned treatment programme. This will ensure that progress in individuals after stroke is supported by professionals with a more eclectic, individualized approach.