- Talking about sexuality is important after stroke treatment
- Stroke damages the brain from interruption of its blood supply
- Stroke impacts the survivor’s relationship with his/her own body
Survivors of stroke need to talk about their sexuality after their treatment, a new study has found. Health professionals rarely address a stroke patient's sexuality during his/her rehabilitation period. The research states that stroke survivors and their partners are not adequately supported to deal with changes in their relationship, their gender roles, self-identity and intimacy after a stroke attack. The research is supported by data which mentions that nothing more than 15% of stroke patients receive information on their intimate relations after a stroke. This is despite the fact clinical guideline recommendations include it. Sexuality and disability is considered a taboo. This is the reason why stroke survivors don't know how to talk about it and health professions rarely ask questions about it.
According to researchers, not talking about sexuality after stroke is problematic as sexuality is an important aspect of human experience and has strong links with a person's emotional and mental health, reports ANI.
A stroke is referred to as a condition which damages the brain from interruption of its blood supply. Common symptoms of stroke are such that they make the sides of the face numb and droopy, cause speech difficulties and muscle weakness on one side of the body. A stroke attack might bring some changes to the person's functionality. Some common causes of stroke include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, being overweight, lack of exercise, blood-thinning medicines and age.
As part of the study, full findings of which appeared in the journal- Clinical Rehabilitation, a systematic review of several studies was done to explore experiences of around 650 male and female stroke survivors ranging from 20 to 105 years of age, as well as the experiences of 283 partners of stroke survivors.
The study uses a broad definition of sexuality and explores dimensions such gender roles, identity, presentation of self to others, reproduction, relationships, intimacy and sexual expression.
Speaking of couples in a relationship before the stroke, any kind of communication difficulties, cognitive and physical impairment and post-stroke fatigue meant that there were pre-existing and often stereotypical gender-based roles, which need to change.
While men stroke survivors were found to be struggling with the inability to identify themselves as "protector" or "provider" for the family, female stroke survivors regretted the loss of their role as wife, homemaker and mother. This lack of identification and loss of role affected the way survivors interacted with each other. It also impacted partner's self-identity, particularly when they moved from being an intimate partner to an important caregiver.
People who were not in a relationship or those who had ended their relationship ended up having lower self-confidence and reduced willingness to get into a new relationship.
Furthermore, a stroke impacts the survivor's relationship with his/her own body. Many people begin to see a stroke survivor's body as unpredictable or separate from themselves. In such a scenario, not being sexually intimate worsens such feelings and increases anxiety.
Thus, rehabilitation of stroke patients must include interactions about such misconceptions and fears from professionals.
Dos and don'ts stroke rehabilitation
Under normal circumstances, stroke rehabilitation involves motor-skill exercises (which helps in improving muscle strength and coordination); mobility training (which uses mobility aids such as walker, canes, wheelchair and ankle brace); constraint-induced therapy (in which the unaffected limb is restrained while you practice moving the affected limb to help in improving its functioning); and range-of-motion therapy (which includes exercises and treatments to reduce muscle tension.
The sooner stroke rehabilitation begins, the better is for the stroke patient to regain lost abilities and skills. Some immediate priorities of the doctor should be to stabilise the patient's medical condition, reduce stroke-related complications, control life-threatening conditions and prevent chances of another stroke.
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