• Stroke is one of the major causes of disability in the United Kingdom and considerable numbers of stroke survivors need help and support from family carers.
• The sudden and unexpected nature of stroke means that there is very little time for family members to prepare for a caring role.
• This paper draws on data from 37 interviews with 14 new carers of stroke survivors and highlights the uncertainty and lack of confidence that family members experience in adopting a caring role.
• During the initial period following the stroke carers engage in a number of different `seeking' activities in order to try and ensure that they feel competent, confident and safe to provide care and that they understand the likely future demands they may face.
• Rather than being facilitated by staff, carers' efforts often go unnoticed or are overlooked, resulting in carers feeling that they are `going it alone'.
• Staff need to be more aware of carers' `seeking' behaviour and actively encourage the formation of partnerships with family members.