Unmet health and rehabilitation needs of people with long‐term neurological conditions in Queensland, Australia
The survival and life expectancy rates of people with traumatic and degenerative neurological conditions are increasing, sometimes up to several decades. Yet compared to the general population, people with a disability continue to experience poorer health and are at greater risk of developing secondary health problems and facing barriers to services they require. These trends have significant implications for provision of health and rehabilitation services. In this study, the adequacy of health and rehabilitation services provided to people with long‐term neurological conditions and their unmet needs were explored from the perspectives of individual users, their nominated family members and key service providers. A qualitative research design with maximum variation sampling was used. Data were collected from semi‐structured interviews with 65 participants comprising 25 long‐term care service users, nominated family members or friends (n = 22) and care service providers (n = 18) in Queensland, Australia. All service users needed assistance with usual daily activities, and 22 were wheelchair dependent. The hours of funded personal care ranged from 2 to 201 hours per week. Data were analysed using framework analysis. Participants generally perceived that specialist medical and hospital services were adequate and satisfactory. They valued supportive health and rehabilitation professionals and receiving client‐centred physical rehabilitation. However, the majority of participants (n = 17) had perceived unmet needs for physical rehabilitation (n = 14), other health or rehabilitation services (n = 10) or counselling (n = 6). Community‐based physical maintenance rehabilitation was often perceived as inadequate, costly or inconveniently located. Participants highlighted the importance of personal and family counselling and information provision at time points such as diagnosis. The findings contribute to the limited international evidence on the gaps in health and rehabilitation services for people with neurological conditions receiving lifetime care services in the community. A continuum of integrated rehabilitation services to minimise avoidable impairments, optimise independence and functioning, and sustain quality of life is warranted.
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