An exploratory study of anxiety in carers of stroke survivors

Greenwood, N. and Mackenzie, A. (2010) An exploratory study of anxiety in carers of stroke survivors. Journal Of Clinical Nursing, 19(13-14), pp. 2032-2038. ISSN (print) 0962-1067


AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: To investigate anxiety in informal carers of stroke survivors in the first three months after discharge. BACKGROUND: Informal carers, also called caregivers, play a vital role in supporting stroke survivors. However, caring for stroke survivors can have adverse consequences amongst carers such as burden, stress and reduced quality of life. Emotional distress is also commonly reported but anxiety has received less attention than depression. DESIGN: Prospective, longitudinal, descriptive study. METHOD: Forty-five carers completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale on two occasions - within one month and at three months after discharge from stroke and rehabilitation units. RESULTS: Carers were more likely to have scores indicating anxiety than depression. In the first month, half the carers (51·1%) scored in the cut-off for anxiety and a third were in the cut-off for depression (31·1%). At three months, the picture was very similar with nearly identical proportions in the anxious and depressed categories (48·9% and 28·9%, respectively). Changes in numbers of cases of anxiety and depression and in mean anxiety scores were non-significant but there was a significant decrease in depression scores (p=0·048). Fourteen carers (31·1%) at one month and eleven (24·4%) at three months fell into both anxious and depressed categories. CONCLUSIONS: Anxiety is a relatively neglected emotional outcome in stroke carers. Our study suggests anxiety is an important issue very early in caring whilst other research suggests it remains prevalent for many months. Given the significant role carers play in rehabilitation of stroke survivors, greater recognition of their emotional state is required. Further, longitudinal research with larger sample sizes from a range of geographical areas and improved understanding of factors associated with anxiety is needed. RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Nurses working in the community are ideally placed to identify and support carers suffering from anxiety.

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