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Support system diversity among family caregivers of stroke survivors: a qualitative study exploring Asian perspectives

Background: Caregiving is a global phenomenon which is bound to increase in tandem with the aging population worldwide. Stroke is a condition common in older people that requires complex caregiving necessitating provision of adequate support to the caregivers. Past literature consists of limited accounts of types and organization of support arrangements needed by different caregivers. Objectives: We aimed to describe the support system of caregivers of stroke survivors in Singapore, highlighting differences across the different caregiver identities (i.e. spouse, adult-child, etc.). Methods: We conducted a qualitative descriptive study in the community setting involving 61 purposively sampled and recruited stroke survivors and caregivers. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, and transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Our findings were summarized across the following 4 themes: 1) cultural influence and caregiving; 2) caregiver support system with the following sub-themes: 2.1) dyadic caregiver support type, 2.2) extended caregiver support type, 2.3.) distributed caregiver support type and 2.4) empowering caregiver support type; 3) breaks in care of stroke survivor and 4) complex relationship dynamics. We operationalized the caregiver support system as comprising of type, people and activities that enable the caregiver to participate in caregiving activities sustainably. While spouse caregivers preferred dyadic and extended support systems positioning themselves in a more central caregiving role, adult-child caregivers preferred distributed support system involving family members with paid caregivers playing a more central role. Conclusions: Our findings highlight caregiver identity as a surrogate for the differences in the caregiver support systems. Practical implications include imparting relationship-building skills to the stroke survivor-caregiver dyads to sustain dyadic support system and educating clinicians to include differences in caregiving arrangements of stroke survivors in practising family-centred care. 

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BMC Geriatrics
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