Understanding the impact of pre-existing dementia on stroke rehabilitation

Student thesis: Phd


Pre-existing dementia is associated with poorer functional outcome after stroke. It is unclear however whether this is due to lack of access to, or inequality in, stroke rehabilitation. This PhD used mixed methods to understand whether pre-existing dementia is a factor considered by clinicians when referring/admitting patients for rehabilitation, when providing rehabilitation interventions, and whether there is a difference in rehabilitation received by patients with and without pre-existing dementia. A background literature review informed the first study, which was a systematic review examining factors influencing clinical decision-making about access to stroke rehabilitation. The systematic review suggested that pre-stroke cognition influenced referrals/admission to rehabilitation, however, no studies examined this specifically. The qualitative study therefore used interviews (n=23) to explore clinicians experiences of decision-making about rehabilitation for patients with pre-existing dementia/cognitive impairments. The findings highlighted that clinicians own knowledge influenced their decision-making, with a common perception that people with pre-existing cognitive impairment lack potential to benefit from rehabilitation. The third study, a prospective cohort study, examined differences in rehabilitation received by patients with and without pre-existing cognitive impairments (n=139). People with pre-existing cognitive impairments received less rehabilitation than those without, particularly physiotherapy and referral to community therapies and more non-patient facing occupational therapy. This PhD identified that people with pre-existing dementia/cognitive impairment receive less rehabilitation when compared to those without. This may be, in part, due to clinicians decision-making about which patients should receive stroke rehabilitation. These findings have multiple clinical implications, particularly around the number of patients in stroke services with undiagnosed pre-existing cognitive impairment. Decisions can become more equitable by ensuring clinicians have access to relevant education, training and skills to work alongside patients with pre-existing dementia/cognitive impairments.
Date of Award31 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAudrey Bowen (Supervisor), Sarah Peters (Supervisor) & Caroline Swarbrick (Supervisor)


  • allied health
  • stroke
  • dementia
  • rehabilitation
  • decision-making

Cite this