PURPOSE: Many disabled stroke survivors live at home supported by informal caregivers. Research has revealed that these caregivers are experiencing strain. This study aims to examine the prevalence and differences over time of caregivers' strain in the first 6 months post-stroke and to predict caregiver strain based on patients' and caregivers' characteristics and service input.
METHOD: Ninety consecutive patients and their caregivers were assessed at 2, 4 and 6 months post-stroke. The Caregiver Strain Index was used to evaluate strain. Patients' motor function, functional ability, health status, emotion and participation and caregivers' gender and relation to the patient and service input after discharge were measured to determine the predictive factors.
RESULTS: Nearly one out of three caregivers experienced strain. No differences were seen between 2, 4 and 6 months post-stroke. Correlation and multiple regression analyses revealed that in predicting strain, the patients' functional and activity level plays an important role in the sub-acute phase while the participation level gets more important over time.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings emphasize the importance of maximal physical recovery and optimal reintegration in the community. This is not only essential for the patients themselves but also a pre-requisite to reduce the strain of their caregivers.