RESEARCHERS say the worries of family and friends could negatively affect the recovery of brain haemorrhage patients.
The latest study, from Durham University and the University of Liverpool, was commissioned and funded by the Clarke Lister Brain Haemorrhage Foundation (CLBHF).
It was set up in memory of 10-year-old Peterlee youngster Clarke Lister, who died from a brain haemorrhage in 1996.
Scientists say more support and help is needed for families after they found patients who have suffered from subarachnoid haemorrhage – bleeding on the brain – might not recover physically and socially as well as expected if their partner or friends are overly worried that the illness will happen again.
Relatives and friends of patients might naturally be overprotective of recovering patients and restrict their activities because of their own anxieties, which could hinder recovery.
The study found a year after suffering the haemorrhage, family and friends were found to be significantly more fearful of it happening again than patients.
The patients whose family and friends were most worried tended to rate their health as worse and had more limitations in their physical functioning and social activities.
Study co-author Dr Judith Covey, of the Department of Psychology at Durham University, said: “Understandably, people are worried about their loved ones.
“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.”
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.
“Imagine from the carers’ point of view how hard it must have been to see their loved ones almost die, and who then survived, often becoming a different person. This new challenge of accepting this, and dealing with trying to get back to living life as normal as possible, has a massive impact on the whole family.
“On discharge there is very little support, meaning that the responsibility of the everyday after-care lies with the family. Often this means the loss of income, pressure on relationships and ultimately a poor quality of life.
“I welcome this research, which will inevitably raise a greater understanding of the whole situation, bettering the quality of life all round in support of the carers.”