• carers;
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;
  • community care;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • review

Aims and objectives.  The objectives of this narrative review were to identify: (1) The information and support needs of carers of family members with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; (2) appropriate interventions to support carers in their caregiving role; (3) information on carers’ needs as reported in studies of patients living with COPD in the community.

Background.  Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a major health problem in the UK resulting in significant burden for patients, families and the health service. Current National Health Service policies emphasise, where medically appropriate, early discharge for acute exacerbations, hospital-at-home care and other models of community care to prevent or reduce re-hospitalisations of people with chronic conditions. Understanding carers’ needs is important if health care professionals are to support carers in their caregiving role.

Design.  A narrative literature review.

Methods.  Thirty five papers were reviewed after searching electronic databases.

Results.  Few studies were identified which addressed, even peripherally, carers’ needs for information and support, and no studies were found which described and evaluated interventions designed to enhance caregiving capacity. Several studies of hospital-at-home/early discharge, self care and home management programmes were identified which included some information on patients’ living arrangements or marital status. However, there was little or no detail reported on the needs of, and in many cases, even the presence of a family carer.

Conclusions.  This review highlights the dearth of information on the needs of carers of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients and the need for future research.

Relevance to clinical practice.  There is little research based knowledge of the needs of carers of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients and interventions to assist them in providing care. This knowledge is critical to ensure that carers receive the information they need to carry out this role while maintaining their own physical and emotional health.