The Physical Environment at Stroke Units

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In her doctoral thesis, Anna Anåker looks at the effects of the physical environment on stroke patients.

Anna AnåkerTo reduce the risk of complications, disabilities and death, rehabilitation after a stroke needs to commence as early as possible. The question is, though – how does the physical environment affect patients? Anna Anåker conducted her research on the physical environment at stroke units and the complex relationship between environment and care, as well as the experiences patients have of the physical environment.

“What my results show is that many patients in a stroke unit are inactive and feel lonely when they are cared for in single bedrooms. They lack social contact and seldom spend time outside of their rooms. My aim was to study whether or not the physical environment prevents or supports care,” explains Anna Anåker.

The results from the dissertation demonstrate that the design of the physical environment, with one-bed rooms, may have affected the level of activity among patients. At stroke units that have both one-bed rooms and multibed rooms, the activity level among patients was higher compared with a unit that had only one-bed rooms.

”To increase the level of activity among patients and reduce their sense of loneliness, the physical environment needs to have a number of communal spaces. The physical environment needs also to be easy to navigate and flexible. In the construction of stroke units, it is important to give thought to the development of communal spaces that encourage socialisation and that make it possible for patients to be more active,” explains Anna Anåker further.

Anna Anåker studied three newly built stroke units and observed the activities of patients and the physical space for activities. She also made observations that looked at who spent time in the room with the patient. She paid attention to what it was in the physical environment that affected patient activity. Anna Anåker also interviewed patients about their experiences with regards to the physical environment.

Anna Anåker successfully defended her thesis entitled ”Fysisk miljö på strokeenheter – betydelse för vården” at Karolinska Institutet on February 21, 2019. Anna is Doctor of Medical Sciences and teaches at Dalarna University.

Link to the thesis: Fysisk miljö på strokeenheter – betydelse för vården