Objective: A systematic review of the effectiveness of interventions for adult family carers of people with stroke, and an exploratory examination of the relationship between the conceptual basis of these interventions and their effectiveness.
Data sources: Seventeen electronic databases and grey literature sources were searched, including ASSIA, BNI, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Social Science Citation Index and the Science Citation Index, HMIC and the National Research Register. Authors of unpublished material were contacted for data and additional publications. Reference and citation tracking was performed on included publications.
Review methods: Inclusion criteria: randomized controlled trials of interventions aimed primarily at adult family carers of people post stroke; carers were the primary sample; primary outcomes reported were for carers. Two independent reviewers screened titles and abstracts to identify publications and extract data. Quality assessment was performed to weight study findings.
Results: Eight papers were found reporting on six complex, generally heterogeneous, interventions: caregiver training; education and counselling; social problem-solving partnerships, delivered principally by telephone; a psycho-educational telephone support group; a nurse-led support and education programme; and a support programme, delivered either to groups in hospital or individuals during home visits. Half of the interventions were based on stress-coping theories; the remainder did not identify a conceptual basis for the intervention.
Conclusions: Some benefits were reported for all interventions, although trials were generally of low quality, preventing firm conclusions being drawn. The presence of a conceptual basis for interventions does not appear to influence effectiveness.