OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether spouses' psychological well-being changed between the first weeks after their partner's stroke and four months and one year later, and to study the relationship between spouses' psychological well-being and objective characteristics of the stroke patients.
DESIGN: Prospective, longitudinal study.
SETTING: Hospital care and follow-ups.
SUBJECTS: Sixty-seven consecutively enrolled spouses to first-ever stroke patients < 75 years.
MAIN MEASURES: The Psychological General Well-Being (PGWB) Index. Clinical examination of the stroke patients. The Barthel Index.
RESULTS: The spouses' psychological well-being was significantly lower in the first weeks after their partner's stroke as compared with norms. At four months, it had increased significantly. Between four months and one year, individual changes were observed in both positive and negative directions; thus, the mean level of the group remained constant. The spouses' psychological well-being in the first weeks was significantly related to the patients' sensorimotor impairments, while it was related at four months to cognitive impairment and the patients' abilities in self-care. At one year, psychological well-being was related to remaining sensorimotor and cognitive impairments. A significant relationship was also seen between the spouses' and the stroke patients' emotional health.
CONCLUSIONS: The spouses' psychological well-being increased after the first chaotic weeks. The presence of visible impairments initially seemed to affect spouses' emotional health, while cognitive and emotional impairments became more evident in everyday life. In the long term, however, the spouses' individual life situations and coping abilities seem to be of relatively increasing importance for their continued well-being.