Background. Throughout the stroke rehabilitation process, community care is one of the most important elements. Learning to live with and take care of a family member with a stroke is immensely complex and demanding. Without appropriate support, family caregivers are at risk of their own general health decreasing, thus becoming a patient themselves – the second patient in the family.
Aim. The aim of this study was to examine aspects of social support available to family caregivers during the first 12-week transitional period following hospital discharge.
Design and method. This study adopted a cross-sectional descriptive design. Regression analysis was performed for examining the types of social support received and the general health of family caregivers. Open-ended questions were used to gain a better understanding of situation-specific supports including their availability, utilization and eventual satisfaction.
Results. Findings confirm that home care for the stroke survivor is heavy and demanding. Health-related care tasks were the most stressful. Around 40% of the family caregivers reported somatic symptoms. Fewer persons in the social network of the family caregivers had provided support compared with the number of support people that caregivers thought available. Two inadequate types of support were tangible support and information support. Professional advice and feedback in relation to home care skills were particularly lacking.
Conclusion. Findings of this study affirmed that stroke care needs exceed the hospital boundary. Professional support to family caregivers is essential so as to sustain home care and protect the caregiver's health. This is particular important during the first 12 weeks transitional period after hospital discharge.
Relevance to clinical practice. This study highlighted the implications of social support to nursing practice, especially in predischarge planning and community care. Findings of this study may provide information and data for service planning and community resources co-ordination to support community stroke care.