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The Irish Heart Foundation’s Stroke Check In Service is playing a vital role in helping stroke survivors rebuild their lives after stroke
The Irish Heart Foundation’s Stroke Check-In Service, established to support stroke survivors and their families in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, has supported almost 500 people in its first year of operation.
Established in April 2020 in response to a request from the HSE National Stroke Programme, the Stroke Check-In Service has, to date, supported 497 stroke survivors and carers, many of whom were recently discharged from hospital early due to COVID-19.
Returning home after stroke is difficult at any time, but never more so than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, stroke patients being discharged from hospital during the pandemic need extra support.
As a result of the Covid-19 emergency, there was a significant reduction in community-based supports for stroke patients due to illness, and staff who usually work in these areas being redeployed to help tackle the pandemic. Many stroke patients are also being discharged earlier than usual from hospital once they are clinically fit to return home in an effort to protect them from contracting the coronavirus.
The Stroke Check-In Service has, to date, supported 497 stroke survivors and carers
The phone service involves trained and experienced Irish Heart Foundation staff and volunteers making regular calls to stroke survivors who have been referred by acute hospital stroke teams to check on their health and wellbeing. They also provide information and advice about recovery from stroke and ensure that patients’ practical needs are being met enabling stroke survivors to stay safe.
The telephone team is backed up by the Irish Heart Foundation’s support line nurses, and a traffic light system is in place to escalate calls when necessary to stroke nurses or the emergency services.
In the last 12 months the service has received 497 referrals with support staff and volunteers making 3,856 calls in all to people in need of support.
The service is currently supporting 181 stroke survivors and 309 people have gone through the service.
Following the initial 12-week programme, 163 people have continued to receive support from the Irish Heart Foundation through its online support groups and private Facebook pages and this number continues to increase.
It’s estimated that around 7,500 people are hospitalised after a stroke in Ireland each year – the equivalent of 21 strokes a day nationwide and the majority of people will be discharged home after spending an average of around two weeks in hospital.
“ The Stroke Check-In Service was great peace of mind for me, knowing I could ask questions to the support nurses that understood what I was going through."
Sinead Sweeney, a stroke survivor from Roscommon said that for her the service offered “great peace of mind.” “The Stroke Check-In Service was great peace of mind for me, knowing I could ask questions to the support nurses that understood what I was going through. It was great that the local coordinator was able to link in with the local community services for me that was very important as I wanted to do as much rehabilitation at home as possible to be home with my children. I enjoyed having a chat with the support volunteer weekly, I am very thankful for this incredible service,” Sinead said.
Another stroke survivor who availed of the service Eddie Leavey said the service was instrumental in his recovery. “I want to say a big thanks to The Irish Heart Foundation Stroke Check-in Service Team, for the support and counselling after my discharge from hospital. With your help, I’m now well on the way to full recovery. I found the exercise sessions particularly helpful in improving my balance and strength. Being in contact with many others at a difficult time was welcoming and encouraging,” Eddie said.
Mary Diskin, Stroke Clinical Nurse Specialist at Portiuncula University Hospital said the Stroke Check-in Service provided a patient-centred holistic approach.
” Stroke care did not stop during the pandemic. However, it did get stronger with the addition of very positive development, the Irish Heart Foundation Stroke Check-in service. My experience working with this group has been nothing but positive, a truly holistic approach is at the centre of how they want to help and support each individual referred and their family. When my colleagues and I refer somebody to the service from Portiuncula University Hospital, we know that contact will be made shortly, support made available and that the staff go out of their way to find ways to problem-solve for our patients and their families. Psychologically knowing that someone is there to help it’s such a relief. This has been a huge asset, to support our community services during a most difficult time.”
"Stroke care did not stop during the pandemic. However, it did get stronger with the addition of very positive development, the Irish Heart Foundation Stroke Check-in service."
Commenting Mr Chris Macey, Director of Advocacy and Patient Support with the Irish Heart Foundation said, “The Irish Heart Foundation’s check-in service is making a huge difference to stroke survivors at what for many is their hour of greatest need – the crucial period after they return home from the hospital. It’s a lifeline for patients who feel abandoned when their hospital treatment is over, helping them to overcome the everyday obstacles that prevent them from making the most of life after stroke.
By providing emotional support, practical tips and advice, authoritative information, access to counselling, physical activity programmes, and our nurse-led helpline, we are putting a virtual arm around the shoulders of stroke survivors and making the commitment to be with them every step of the way on the road to recovery.”
In addition to the phone check-in service that actively makes calls to stroke patients, the Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is available to answer questions any member of the public may have on any aspect of heart disease and stroke. Nurses can be contacted by calling 01 668 5001 or emailing email@example.com
The Irish Heart Foundation support group network is already supporting more than 3,000 people. This includes 26 stroke and heart failure support groups around the country that are supporting members through regular phone calls and WhatsApp groups, along with groups for specific cardiac conditions such as cardiomyopathy and Long QT Syndrome. It also incorporates closed Life After Stroke and Heart Support Facebook groups that are providing advice, interaction, and peer support, along with Facebook live sessions on everything from mindfulness to good nutrition.
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