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Canada needs to invest more in stroke recovery

Most people survive stroke but are left with limited therapy for physical, cognitive, psychological challenges


Canada needs a revolution in stroke, rebalancing care to put greater emphasis on rehabilitation and community reintegration of survivors, according to an article published today in Expert Reviews of Neurotherapeutics.

The publication is timely because today, October 29, is World Stroke Day — a day to highlight issues and challenges facing stroke disease, which is “globally the second leading cause of death and one of the costliest and most burdensome diseases,” Canadian researchers say.

According to the expert review article, led by Dr. Robert Teasell of Western University, “the time has come for … greater focus on and investment in the rehabilitation and quality of life of stroke survivors.”

Dr. Teasell, a researcher with the Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery, says rehabilitation, which has been proven to reduce the burden of stroke, requires an effective, organized and well-supported chronic disease management strategy.

“We now know the brain can recover for many years after a stroke and it’s a missed opportunity every time somebody doesn’t have access to the kind of services and care that could help restore what they’ve lost,” says Dr. Dale Corbett, Scientific Director and CEO of the HSF Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery.

“After acute care, stroke survivors are left alone on an island to navigate a system that has no resources to allow us to be functional, independent members of society rather than a burden of cost on our health-care system,” says author and stroke champion Carole Laurin, who had a series of strokes at age 42.

As it stands, about 80 per cent of people survive stroke and, even after five years, an estimated 36 per cent of these people are left with a discernible disability. In addition, as many as 50 per cent of chronic stroke patients report long-term symptoms of depression.

“The harsh reality is that focusing on stroke as a consequence of inadequate risk factor management, poor lifestyle choices or failure to access clot-busting drugs quickly enough will not change the clinical trajectory for the majority of stroke patients who are faced with the prospect of having to live with often significant physical and cognitive disabilities,” writes Dr. Teasell.

There are 62,000 strokes in Canada every year. About 315,000 Canadians are living with the consequences of stroke. Only 5-9 per cent of stroke patients discharged home from acute care received a referral to outpatient rehabilitation and patients referred to in-home rehabilitation services received only 3-9 total rehabilitation visits on average.

Rehabilitation continues to be greatly under-valued and under-resourced at both an academic and clinical level.

Download our release: World Stroke Day

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