Stroke survivors needed as coaches

An exciting new research project, which aims to improve the life quality of stroke sufferers, is underway in north Wales. The ‘People Power’ project will bring together recent stroke patients and stroke survivors to share experiences and help them on their road to recovery.

Many people who suffer a stroke find it difficult to get back to the sort of social and family activities that were important to them before their stroke. Being able to get out and about, visiting friends, or finding new hobbies can be difficult, and often people lack the confidence to ‘give things a go’.

Bangor University’s School of Healthcare Sciences is working on a joint project with the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and Dr Salah Elghenzai, Consultant Physician Elderly/General medicine, as well as Nottingham and Stirling Universities to develop new ways of helping people to discover or re-discover social and leisure activities after a stroke. The team led by Dr Chris Burton from Bangor University are completing a study to see if people who have experienced and recovered from a stroke can be ‘peer coaches’ for recent stroke survivors.

The study will train and support the peers as part of this small initial study in north Wales and evaluate the effect of ‘peer coaches’ on all those involved. The main aim is to encourage wider participation in activities which are beneficial to people with stroke as part of daily life, building on recovery in the community. Peer coaches will be involved in arranging a broad spectrum of individual or group social events, activities or pastimes – from pottery to arts groups. They will also be focusing on a wide range of potential leisure activities, including but extending beyond walking, the gym or swimming. The involvement of stroke peers brings ‘people power’ through experience and knowledge of what works, when and for who and in the local community.

The evidence indicates that after a stroke, people can find it difficult to continue social and leisure activities or start new ones. This is important as research shows that those people who do not engage in these activities are more likely to have reduced quality of life. In the Foothills Medical Centre, Calgary, Canada, the Inpatient Support Program In Recovery from Stroke (INSPIRES) programme was developed some years ago to explore supporting people with stroke in hospital and peers are used to help people in the early stages of their stroke. The study in north Wales is focused on partnership with INSPIRES and developing the work within Wales and the UK but also establishing a community-based model that can be used more widely.

Dr Burton said: “We have heard about the benefits that peer coaches have brought to stroke patients in Canadian hospitals. We are keen to see whether we can apply this learning to the challenges of rebuilding life after stroke in north Wales.”

If you are interested in becoming a ‘peer coach’ or wish to have more information about the study then please contact the School of Healthcare Sciences, Bangor University: Dr Sion Williams Telephone 01248 388451 or Irina Constantin

Publication date: 23 October 2014