Purpose. To explore: (a) the type and frequency of care-giving activities provided by family members in the Rehabilitation Setting (RS), (b) opportunities for family members to receive training in care-giving activities, (c) to what extent caregivers feel free to ask the nursing staff for help and (d) to estimate the number of nursing staff required to substitute this care and thus to estimate the money saved by the RS due to the in-hospital informal care.
Method. A convenience sample of 80 family members was selected. A questionnaire was developed to investigate several aspects of informal in-hospital care. Data was analysed using SPSS for Windows (Release 10.1).
Results. Cultural reasons and nursing staff shortage led 78.8% (n = 63) of the sample to provide informal in-hospital care. Oral and facial care (67.5%), help with getting dressed (62.5%), help with feeding (61.25%, n = 49), making patients' beds (57.5%, n = 46) and assistance with transferring patients from one hospital department to another (56.25%, n=45) was provided on a daily basis by the subjects. 48.75%, (n=39) changed sheets 1-2 times per week, while assistance with transfers from bed to wheel-chair and vice-versa (43.75%, n = 35) was provided 3-4 times per week. The estimated total time spent per week by the subjects on care-giving activities was 34,034 minutes that corresponds to a total of 75.6 working days or 15.12 working weeks. In order to substitute this care, the RS would need to hire 17 more assistant nurses, entailing a cost of from e14,450 to e20,060 per month.
Conclusions. Informal in-hospital care is provided by Greek families in the RS. Nursing care staff shortage combined with cultural factors are the main reasons for this phenomenon. However, it saves the RS and the Greek State money and policy makers should be looking for ways to overcome the nursing shortage.