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Financial protection

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How life can change at a stroke

Andy Couchman

The financial difficulties facing stroke patients once they leave hospital has been highlighted by recent research.

A small-scale study group formed by a multi-professional student group at Cardiff University School of Medicine and Cardiff Metropolitan University in Wales focused on the financial burdens faced by stroke sufferers. It is a reminder of how insurance can help patients and their families in the aftermath of a stroke.

According to the NHS, each year more than 150,000 people in England will have a stroke. Stroke is the third largest killer (behind heart disease and cancer), and the brain damage associated with strokes makes them the single largest cause of adult disability in the UK. 25% of stroke victims are under 65 years of age.

A letter from the group published in the British Medical Journal on 9 August (BMJ 2013;347:f4999) cited the case study of a patient who had saved for his early retirement. After his stroke, he was unable to return to work and his wife gave up her job to help him with daily life. They then endured nearly ten years of financial difficulties. Only after their savings were almost gone were they entitled to help in adapting their home to cope with his needs. The letter concluded: “Many stroke survivors are forced to spend their life savings before they can access even basic care funded by the NHS and social services.”

One solution to such difficulties is to have critical illness insurance (CIC). However, most insurer case studies provide relatively little insight because they are based on people who have cover, rather than on those who do not. The letter concludes that “the financial burden of long-term care can cause considerable anxiety and stress to stroke survivors”.

If the patient in the case study cited here had been covered by CIC, he and his wife to avoid using their savings, reduced their financial stress and had more options. It is also a reminder of the importance of getting sound financial advice.

http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f4999

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