Research

Young adult stroke survivors struggling to return to work

New research has confirmed young adult stroke survivors are missing out on the support they need to return to work.

The systematic review, published in the International Journal of Stroke, found just 66 percent of working age stroke survivors had re-entered the workforce up to four years post-stroke.

Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan said stroke can have a lasting impact on the independence, family life, finances and careers of young adult stroke survivors.

“Stroke strikes the brain – the human control centre – and can change lives in an instant for the individual and their loved ones,’’ Ms McGowan said.

“Advancements in stroke treatment mean more Australians are surviving stroke than ever before, but for the stroke survivor and their family the impact of stroke is far reaching.

“Health and social care services are not well set up to deal with younger stroke survivors, and compared with those over 65 years, younger stroke survivors are less likely to be referred to rehabilitation services.

“As a consequence many are returning home without the necessary follow-up therapy and support needed to resume everyday life.

“This comes at a significant cost, not only to the individual, but to their family, the health system, the community and the economy as a whole,” she said.

Internationally, incidence of stroke is on the increase in part due to lifestyle factors. Within Australia, it is estimated around 20 strokes happen to young people a day and 30 percent of stroke survivors are of working age (142,000).

This study found independence in daily living activities, cognitive ability and neurological deficits were the most common predictors of a successful return to work.

Ms McGowan said a young stroke survivor may be able to achieve a good physical recovery and appear well on the surface, but often struggles with ‘hidden’ issues can impact performance and organisation skills. These include fatigue, depression, sleeping problems, anxiety and pain.

“We know young stroke survivors are doing it tough,’’ she said.

“Recovery from stroke can be a long and challenging journey, but it can be improved.

“Young stroke survivors must be empowered through tailored supports and improved rehabilitation to maximise their life after stroke. They must be supported to grow and thrive, to get back to work and contribute to the community.”

In response to the study, Stroke Foundation called on Federal and State Governments to invest in vital rehabilitation research, and promote greater access to innovative and cutting edge recovery treatments for stroke survivors of working age.

“Now, we must focus our attention on finding the next discovery in stroke rehabilitation,’’ Ms McGowan said.

“For patients and families affected by stroke it is vital we gain a better understanding of the interventions which will enable stroke patients to make their best recovery possible – the time to act is now.

“Better services and support will reduce stroke’s burden on individuals, their families, the community and the health system.

“We must do more to prevent stroke and better support stroke survivors throughout their recovery,’’ she said.

Source: Stroke Foundation

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