Who supports the spouse?
Caregiving on stroke survivors, has implications for nursing education. Findings from using studies into nursing education programs, nurses entering practice will be better prepared to provide assistance to the spousal caregiver during a caregiving experience. Nurses can incorporate the spousal caregiver into the unit of care and can consider the potential impact of caregiving on the caregiver. By anticipating potential problems and stressors, strategies can be implemented to avoid unnecessary caregiver stress.
The findings from using studies also have implications for future research. There is a need for future studies to assess spousal caregivers of stroke survivors over a longer period of time. There is also a need to study the effects of the caregiving experience on the health of the spousal caregiver at various stages of the experience. It is important to determine whether there are certain stages during the caregiving experience when a spousal caregiver is more vulnerable to the adverse health effects of caregiving. In addition, it is necessary to study whether interventions, such as social support in the form of healthcare professional visits and respite care, help alleviate or decrease adverse effects of caregiving. Continued research on the experience of spousal caregivers of stroke survivors is necessary to gain a deeper understanding of the multidimensional impact of the caregiving experience.
Caregiving for a spousal partner who has suffered a stroke contributes to numerous changes in the lives of the caregivers. This phenomenological study examined the experience of older caregivers as they cared for a spouse who had survived a stroke. Eight participants met the eligibility criteria and participated in the study. Six themes emerged: experiencing a profound sense of loss, adjusting to a new relationship, taking on new responsibilities, feeling the demands of care, having to depend on the support of others, and maintaining hope and optimism.
Caregiving affected every aspect of the participants' lives in this study. Spousal caregivers were committed to the work of caregiving and felt it was their responsibility to care for their affected partners. Equally evident in the caregivers' accounts was that they needed to be supported in their caregiving work.
Researchers need to continue to examine the experiences of spousal caregivers and to expand the scope of this work to better understand the impact that caregiving has on a spouse. As the population ages, the incidence of spousal caregiving will increase as will chronic health conditions such as stroke.