Objectives: To explore the impact of two methods of post-hospital stroke rehabilitation on both carers' perceptions of the health services offered and their quality of life.
Setting: East Dorset Health Authority.
Subjects: Forty-six informal carers were recruited from a sample of 106, initially identified from stroke patients participating in a larger randomized controlled trial.
Design: Qualitative methods.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were used at baseline and six months to explore carers' perception of a good therapy, the advantages and disadvantages of the different services and their fulfilment with the services. In-depth thematic analysis was carried out to explore the impact of the two different methods of service delivery on carers' quality of life.
Results: Day hospitals provided carers with respite opportunities, whilst domiciliary stroke teams provided carers with better educational opportunities to be involved in therapy. No qualitative difference was found in the impact that the different services had on carers' quality of life, which were influenced by factors such as the degree of disruption that caring had on their lives, the loss of a shared life and the availability of social support. Ultimately, carers saw the services as providing benefit for survivors and not themselves.
Conclusions: Domiciliary stroke teams provided informal stroke carers with skills that could help improve postdischarge stroke rehabilitation amongst stroke survivors. Informal carers also benefited from the respite elements of day hospital. A mixed model using both domiciliary care and day hospital care, could provide carers with the benefits of education, convenience and respite.