Purpose. To highlight the importance of the spouse in stroke rehabilitation. Stroke not only affects the patients, but also their families, but rehabilitation practice is still primarily focused on the patient only.
Method. Analysis of the position of the spouse and possible consequences of stroke for the spouse, based on the literature.
Results. Three roles of spouses are described: (i) the role of caregiver, as the spouse often provides extensive and comprehensive care for the patient; (ii) the role of client, as this informal care may lead to physical and emotional strain; and (iii) the role of family member, as the stroke affects the interpersonal relationships within the family system, not least the emotional and sexual relationship between the partners. This analysis provides an understanding of problems experienced by spouses as roles conflict and identifies topics for assessment and interventions directed at the spouse in the acute phase, rehabilitation phase and chronic phase of stroke.
Conclusion. We support a family-centred approach in which the strengths and needs of all family members, the patient with stroke included, are considered throughout all phases of the rehabilitation process.