BACKGROUND: Attention is currently focused on family care of stroke survivors, but the effectiveness of support services is unclear. We did a single-blind, randomised, controlled trial to assess the impact of family support on stroke patients and their carers.
METHODS: Patients with acute stroke admitted to hospitals in Oxford, UK, were assigned family support or normal care within 6 weeks of stroke. After 6 months, we assessed, for carers, knowledge about stroke, Frenchay activities index, general health questionnaire-28 scores, caregiver strain index, Dartmouth co-op charts, short form 36 (SF-36), and satisfaction scores, and, for patients, knowledge about stroke and use of services, Barthel index, Rivermead mobility index, Frenchay activities index, London handicap scale, hospital anxiety and depression scales, Dartmouth co-op charts, and satisfaction.
FINDINGS: 323 patients and 267 carers were followed up. Carers in the intervention group had significantly better Frenchay activities indices (p=0.03), SF-36 scores (energy p=0.02, mental health p=0.004, pain p=0.03, physical function p=0.025, and general health perception p=0.02), quality of life on the Dartmouth co-op chart (p=0.01), and satisfaction with understanding of stroke (82 vs 71%, p=0.04) than those in the control group. Patients' knowledge about stroke, disability, handicap, quality of life, and satisfaction with services and understanding of stroke did not differ between groups. Fewer patients in the intervention group than in the control group saw a physiotherapist after discharge (44 vs 56%, p=0.04), but use of other services was similar.
INTERPRETATION: Family support significantly increased social activities and improved quality of life for carers, with no significant effects on patients.