Stroke Association Voluntary Groups (SAVGs) are volunteer-led, peer support groups designed to reduce social isolation and improve mental wellbeing for stroke survivors and carers. They are based in communities across the UK and involve a range of activities including exercise, art, music, gardening, talks and trips out. The Nuffield Trust was selected to independently evaluate SAVGs and to assess the value and impact of the groups for those that use them. The results of the evaluation will be published next week in our report, Knowing you’re not alone: Understanding peer support for stroke survivors. Ahead of the launch of the report, stroke survivor Doreen describes how a SAVG in Merseyside has helped her.
When I had my first stroke aged 52, I felt like I'd lost everyone. It was as though I had an illness and people didn’t want to be my friend any more. Now, thanks to the Merseyside 'Life After Stroke' Group, I’ve found a new group of friends. It’s become my lifeline.
My first stroke four years ago affected my left-hand side and my memory, leaving me with no confidence at all. Fortunately, the hospital recommended going along to the Merseyside Life After Stroke Group.
After my stroke I couldn’t drive, and my confidence was so low that I wouldn’t go along to the group sessions without my husband Phil, so he came with me each week for 12 months.
Four years on, I love being a member of the group, because everyone is treated exactly the same no matter how your stroke has affected you. I’ve now even started to volunteer and joined the social committee.
When I had my stroke, all my friends disappeared and I even lost touch with family members. Now I get an awful lot from going along to the group. In fact, because I can no longer drive and my husband Phil works each day, it’s the only day I get out of the house. It’s the one thing that gets me out and about.
Now there’s at least half a dozen of us at the group who always sit together and have a laugh each week – they’ve become my close friends!
Being part of the group has really helped my confidence. I had a second stroke 12 months ago, which set me back and knocked my confidence even more. But because all the members have been through the same thing, everyone understands each other and it’s helped me so much. I feel no different now walking into the group as I did walking into my workplace four years ago, before my stroke.
When new people join, I know how apprehensive they’ll be feeling, so we all make an effort to encourage people and ask them to sit with us. It’s nice to help build up other people’s confidence in the same way the rest of the group helped me to build mine.
Occasionally the local coordinators set up different activities, like taking part in Challenge for Change, an aerial assault course, or going along to physio sessions. These types of sessions don’t only help your mobility – you feel like you’ve found a new interest in life.
Without a doubt, I’d recommend joining a stroke group to anyone. In fact, I think everyone who has had a stroke should join a group. Like I say, it’s been a lifeline for me and I’ve found friends for life.
Goulding D (2016) 'The 'Life After Stroke' group was my lifeline'. Nuffield Trust comment, 23 September 2016. https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/news-item/the-life-after-stroke-group-was-my-lifeline