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Home > RNJ > 2009 > July/August > Commentary

Commentary
Cathy L. Bays, PhD RN

Ostwald, Godwin, and Cron’s research on predictors of life satisfaction in stroke survivors and their spousal caregivers is important because of its population and research design (see this issue’s Continuing Education article on page 160). As the authors state, the majority of the approximate 6 million stroke survivors in the United States live at home with family. Moreover, strokes are the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States (American Heart Association, 2009), affecting four out of five American families (National Stroke Association, 2009). This study’s research design was important because few studies have followed stroke survivors for longer than 12 months, and even fewer have looked at life satisfaction in their caregiving spouses. Plus, this new study’s 24-month longitudinal design included both survivors and their caregivers, which yielded a diverse sample and added to the existing body of knowledge on life satisfaction of stroke survivors and caregivers.

Ostwald, Godwin, and Cron’s article identified feasible practice implications. Their suggestions for translating research into practice center around mutuality, survivor depression, caregiver preparation, and future research. Because mutuality was the one significant predictor of life satisfaction for both stroke survivors and caregivers, assessing the quality of relationships before stroke and designing interventions that strengthen relationships are essential practice and research areas of emphasis. The authors also advocate for early intervention with depressive symptoms. The strong correlation between life satisfaction and depression in stroke survivors warrants implementation of intensive primary preventative strategies to maintain and enhance the mental health of stroke survivors before depressive symptoms arise. Expanding on the authors’ recommendation, specific intensive attention needs to be given to the initial preparation for and continual refinement of responsibilities in the dynamic caregiving role. Future research that can replicate and expand this study design to begin at stroke onset, continue for 3–5 years poststroke, and include stroke survivors with nonspousal caregivers will further enhance knowledge on life satisfaction in stroke survivors and their caregivers.

References

American Heart Association. (2009). Stroke rehabilitation. Retrieved May 7, 2009, from www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4713.

National Stroke Association. (2009). Caregivers and families. Retrieved May 7, 2009, from www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=CARE.