In Australia, more than 346,000 individuals who experience a stroke return to living in their homes with varying degrees of disability. They rely on emotional and physical support from informal carers, typically family members. Informal carers have an indispensable role in patient care poststroke, and the ability of carers to manage this role effectively is crucial for stroke survivors to be able to return home. The aim of this study was to examine the impact of the caring role on carers of stroke survivors, particularly the services provided and the levels of depression and well-being experienced. The study used a longitudinal design incorporating survey methods. Stroke survivors were assessed for functional ability, quality of life, and depression using three assessment tools: the Stroke Impact Scale, World Health Organization Quality of Life-BREF scale, and Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale. A total of 26 people were surveyed: 13 stroke survivors and their 13 carers. Carer knowledge of stroke support services was also explored. Information was collected by using survey methods and structured interviews at 3 weeks and at 3 months postdischarge. The main finding was that depression scores for carers and stroke survivors were below Australian norms at both assessment time points. The major concern identified by carers was poor follow-up procedures for initiating rehabilitation in the home. This study highlighted that a lack of appropriate discharge planning, in conjunction with early discharge of stroke survivors, can have an impact on the rehabilitation process and place increased and unrealistic demands on carers.
Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Chantal Ski, PhD, atChantal.SKI@svhm.org.au. She is a research fellow at Deakin University's Eastern Health School of Nursing, Burwood, Victoria, Australia.
Bev O'Connell, PhD RN FRCNA, is inaugural chair in nursing at Deakin University's Southern Health Nursing Research Centre, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.