OBJECTIVE: To report and synthesise the experiences, needs and preferences of carers of stroke survivors undergoing inpatient rehabilitation.
DATA SOURCES: MEDLINE, CINAHL, Embase, PsycINFO and Web of Science were searched to March 2016. Reference lists of relevant publications were searched. No language restrictions were applied.
STUDY SELECTION, APPRAISAL AND DATA EXTRACTION: Eligible qualitative studies reported the experiences of carers of stroke survivors who underwent inpatient rehabilitation. Selection, quality appraisal, and data extraction were undertaken by two or more reviewers. The search yielded 3532 records; 93 full-text publications were assessed for eligibility and 34 documents (33 studies) were included. Comprehensiveness of reporting was assessed using the COREQ framework. All text in studies' results and discussion sections were extracted for analysis.
DATA SYNTHESIS: Extracted texts were analysed inductively using thematic synthesis. Seven analytical themes were developed that related to the carers' experiences, needs and preferences: (1) Overwhelmed with emotions; (2) Recognition as a stakeholder in recovery; (3) Desire to be heard and informed; (4) Persisting for action and outcomes; (5) Being legitimate clients; (6) Navigating an alien culture and environment; (7) Managing the transition home.
CONCLUSIONS: This systematic review provides new insights into the experiences, needs and preferences of carers of stroke survivors undergoing inpatient rehabilitation. Carers experienced distress as they navigated a foreign culture and environment without adequate communication and processes in place for their inclusion. We recommend deliberate efforts to provide a more inclusive environment that better supports and prepares carers for their new role.