Objective:The consequences of informal care giving have been well documented in recent decades, and in many fields of illness and chronic disease, the role of informal carers has been recognised and investigated. Informal caregivers in the field of wound management and prevention have been largely unnoticed, despite the chronic nature of many wounds, the enduring nature of treatments and the impact on the physical and social environment; factors likely to have a significant impact on family and friends. The aim of this study was to consider what published evidence is available regarding the experience and role of informal caregivers in wound management or prevention.
Method: An integrated literature review was completed in October 2014 searching ESBCOhost database, Wound Management Association websites, and reviewing reference lists of accessed papers.
Results: A number of challenges were noted in accessing information about informal carers in relation to wound management and prevention. Most of these arose from the scarcity of studies for which informal carers was the primary focus. The available evidence suggests that informal carers have a role in wound management and prevention and that their involvement is likely to represent a noteworthy economic contribution to the wound management health-care team. Wound management was also determined to yield physical and psychological impacts for the carer. There was limited evidence of structured information, support or training for informal carers, which was flagged by carers as an area of need.
Conclusion: General conclusions about the burdensome experience and the valuable role of carers were the main interpretations possible from the evidence. More research which purposively and comprehensively examines the experience and role of informal caregivers is required. This knowledge would provide a foundation upon which interventions and support for informal carers and patients can be generated, which could further serve to enhance wound healing and the prevention of skin damage.