Caregivers' experiences of a home support program after the hospital discharge of an older family member: a qualitative analysis
BMC Health Services Research
The ageing global population has seen increasing numbers of older people living with chronic health problems, declining function, and frailty. As older people seek to live out their years at home, family members, friends and neighbours (informal caregivers) are increasingly relied upon for support. Moreover, pressured health systems and shorter hospital length of stay mean that informal caregivers can find themselves supporting the older person who is still unwell after discharge. The Further
... arge. The Further Enabling Care at Home (FECH) program was developed as a nursing outreach intervention designed to systematically address support needs of family caregivers of older people after hospital discharge to sustain their home-based caregiving. The objective of this study was to explore the experiences of informal caregivers who participated in the FECH program after an older family member's discharge from hospital. Methods: The study employed a qualitative descriptive design. Caregivers of older people discharged home from a Medical Assessment Unit in an Australian hospital who were included in the program were interviewed to explore their experiences and perceptions of the FECH program. Data were audio-recorded, transcribed, and subjected to thematic analysis. Results: Twenty-one family caregivers (81% female, aged 25-89 years) participated in the interviews. Themes emerging were 'The experience of caregiving'; 'The experience of receiving FECH program support'; and 'Caregivers' suggestions for improvement'. Caregivers indicated that reflective discussions with the FECH nurse enabled them to recognise the complexity of the caregiving role and determine aspects where they needed support. Caregivers valued guidance from the FECH nurse in accessing information and resources, which helped them to feel more connected to support, more prepared to care for the older person and themselves, and more secure in the caregiving role. Conclusions: Caregivers' experiences indicated that the structured reflective FECH discussions prompted thought and provided guidance in navigating health and care systems. The FECH program appears to offer a means to address the practical, physical and psychosocial needs of informal caregivers as partners in person-centred health and social care. Trial registration: ANZCTR Trial ID: ACTRN126140011746773.