An exploration of the experience of post-stroke loneliness in rural Scotland
Overview Stroke has a profound effect on an individual’s physical, psychological and social functioning. In Scotland, over 15,000 people have a stroke every year and therefore it is a priority area for the NHS due to its high prevalence. Areas of Scotland with less than 3000 inhabitants are classified as rural. Rural areas have a higher proportion of residents over the age of 65, and as the average age in Scotland to have a stroke is 71, there is a need for efficient stroke rehabilitation services within Scotland. The Scottish government have dedicated resources to improving rural services. Loneliness is defined as a subjective feeling and occurs when an individual feels that they do not have sufficient social connections. Loneliness is more likely to affect older people. Scotland has an aging population and therefore the Scottish government have drafted a new loneliness strategy to address the increasing prevalence of loneliness. Occupational therapists are dual trained in physical and mental health, but are also equipped to work towards improving people’s social environments. Literature Review A literature review was conducted to explore the scope of existing literature about post-stroke loneliness in rural Scotland. No studies of this type were found. It was also revealed that there is an overall lack of literature exploring post-stroke loneliness in rural areas. Existing relevant literature highlighted that both stroke and rural living present unique challenges that can cause a person to feel lonely. Research Proposal The research proposal outlines a study with a generic qualitative design. The study will aim to explore rural-living participants’ perceptions of post-stroke loneliness, what they feel contributes to their loneliness and what they feel would help reduce loneliness. The researcher proposes the use of focus groups to achieve this information. It is hoped that the results of this study may be used to inform future healthcare practice, specifically occupational therapy, in rural Scotland.