Purpose: To describe how fatigue is experienced by stroke survivors, how they understand and deal with fatigue and how fatigue impacts their daily life.
Method: A qualitative interview study was carried out as part of a larger longitudinal study investigating the prevalence, characteristics and contributing factors to post-stroke fatigue. Thirty-two participants (15 men and 17 women) were strategically sampled to explore the experiences of fatigue. Participants were interviewed at 6 months, 1 year and 2 years post-stroke. Data were analysed applying a Grounded theory approach.
Results: Patients clearly described and differentiated their experience between: (1) tiredness as an ordinary life event and (2) fatigue as a post-stroke life condition. Three fatigue-transforming strategies were identified, being on a mission, settling for less and stalling. Stalling seemed to put the stroke survivors in a particularly vulnerable situation. Over time, some participants moved between these two tiredness/fatigue manifestations and their range of strategies.
Conclusions: Post-stroke fatigue is a new life experience different from ordinary tiredness and seems to be a significant problem in the stroke survivors' struggle to regain a new normalcy. Intervention studies are needed to reduce the impact of post-stroke fatigue on coping and recovery.