The devastating impact a stroke can have on your finances and your life...
Nick Cann used to be the boss of the Institute of Financial Planning, a great communicator who'd also dabbled in stand-up. I too am in the financial world, a communicator by trade, and once dabbled in stand-up. I met Nick to give him an award for fundraising after he'd had his serious 'brain attack' and lost most of his ability to talk.
His acceptance speech, using the limited words he has left, was perhaps the most moving, passionate and determined I've ever seen. Even now I can recall some of the short phrases he fought hard to get out. I stood there with mixed feelings of admiration for his steadfastness, and trepidation at the visceral display of the forced change a stroke can bring.
It's the impact that speech had, and imagining myself in Nick's shoes, that led to me agreeing to write the foreword to the important new Stroke Association lived experience report of having a stroke (this blog is an edited version of that).
We need to understand stroke survivors' experiences
Further understanding the real lives of stroke survivors and their lived experiences of working lives, relationships and socialising, means we can start to learn best how support agencies, survivors themselves, their family, friends and those who care can improve things.
We can't ignore that after a stroke, life changes for some. Adaption is necessary, at home and in work.
Work is a cornerstone of most people's lives, for many losing it sucks. Work pays the bills, gives us a purpose, independence, challenge and, possibly, a sense of achievement. It also defines who we are, providing an internal capgen (the little caption at the bottom of the screen which says who someone is when they appear on TV) – a sense of who we are and what we do.
More than a third of working-age stroke survivors must give up work after their strokes
This affects income and self. Over half of stroke survivors said their relationships had been affected by stroke.
The two will often be linked. When someone loses their job suddenly, their confidence and sense of purpose can disappear, freedom turns into reliance.
Then there's the more prosaic matter of lost income, which adds a further burden. Losing a job affects relationships too, and sense of esteem. And no longer bringing in an income can create stress and anxiety over a diminished lifestyle, meeting the bills and providing for a family.
Even for those who aren't struggling financially, stepping back to watch others take on what were their responsibilities can be tough to take.
As the report shows, sadly the knock-on consequences don't finish there.
Strokes can affect confidence
A stroke's impact on people's confidence can change how some relate to everyone they know. Meeting friends or going to social events can be really daunting for them. And avoiding socialising can result in loneliness or being a prisoner in your own home. Those who know stroke survivors should reach out.
Work, even if it's not the same as before, can provide a lifeline and improve recovery. Employers need help to understand what strokes are and what can be done to support stroke survivors to return to work – after all, 'legally' it's their responsibility, not that of stroke survivors.
For those who can't return to work, access to disability benefits should try to incorporate the greater difficulty some stroke survivors will have, both in navigating the system and in surviving.
We need to give survivors opportunities to improve their lives and regain happiness and purpose, whether through hobbies, friends, volunteering or owt else.
We need to want to get out of bed in the morning, and we often want to need to.