Durham University study finds worries of others hinder brain recovery

Experts from Durham University have found that brain haemorrhage patients' recovery can be hindered by family and friends worries

The Calman Centre, Durham University
The Calman Centre, Durham University

Scientists in the North East have found that the worries of family and friends of brain haemorrhage sufferers could negatively impact upon recovery.

Experts from Durham University have worked in collaboration with the University of Liverpool and the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg, in Germany, to assess those that have had a subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH).

Researchers found that patients who have suffered from the condition may not recover physically and socially as well if their partner or friends are overly worried that the illness will happen again. Now, they say loved ones need more support to help alleviate their fears.

SAH is a life-threatening bleeding into the space between membranes surrounding the brain.

It can occur without warning and is usually a result of a ruptured aneurysm or a blow to the head.

Relatives and friends of patients might be overprotective of recovering patients and restrict their everyday activities because of their own anxieties, which could adversely affect patient’s recovery.

Researchers said that to aid patients’ recoveries, attention should be given to the experiences of family and friends to ease their worries and provide them with important additional support.

Study co-author Dr Judith Covey, in the Department of Psychology at Durham University, said: “Understandably, people are worried about their loved ones and want to take care of them following a serious illness.

“Our findings suggest that although they may be acting with the best of intentions, a desire to protect the patient could mean that they help patients a bit too much with everyday physical tasks and inadvertently place restrictions on what the patient does both physically and socially.

“It’s therefore important to take care of the emotions and anxieties of family and friends, as well as the patient, early on in the treatment and rehabilitation process.”

Researchers surveyed 69 patients, who had experienced a spontaneous SAH between May 2005 and August 2006, and the family member or friend who was most involved in providing informal support after the illness.

Clarke Lister who died of a brain haemorrhage
Clarke Lister who died of a brain haemorrhage

The patients had been treated at either Newcastle General Hospital or The James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough.

Just over a year after suffering the haemorrhage, patients’ family and friends were found to be much more fearful of a SAH recurring than the patients themselves.

The only aspect of recovery where patients’ fears about a SAH recurring verged on having a significant impact was when their worries interfered “a little” with work and daily activities.

The research team highlighted the need to conduct further research to understand fully why the worries of family and friends might impact on a patient’s recovery.

Clarke Lister Brain Haemorrhage Foundation (CLBHF), based in County Durham, funded the research into the condition.

CLBHF was established following the sudden death of Clarke Lister, 10, who died of a subarachnoid haemorrhage in June 1996.

Clarke’s mother, Carole Lister, who founded the CLBHF, said: “This is truly significant progress in meeting the needs of the carer, as without the carer the patient would obviously suffer, taking longer in making a good recovery.”



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