Impact of occupational therapy-led education on the stress and quality of life of caregivers of persons with stroke

My doctoral capstone explored the effects of education on caregiving and care of self in caregivers of persons with a stroke. A caregiving training series was implemented with a pretest and posttest design.

Name of student: Sanchala Sen, OTD, MS, OTR/L, BCPR
Name of Mentor: Dr. Heidi Baist, OTD, OTR/L
School: Chatham University, Pittsburg, PA
Setting and location: Acute hospital, Winston-Salem, NC
Virtual / In-person / Hybrid: Hybrid, Live presentation at Chatham university in April 2019

Purpose: The purpose of my capstone project was to assess the effect of an OT-led intervention to mitigate the stress and improve the quality of life of caregivers of persons with a stroke.

Method/Design/Approach: A mixed- methods design was utilized with pre and posttest results of the Zarit Burden Interview (ZBI), a Quality-of-life Likert questionnaire and a qualitative feedback survey with open-ended questions. A 6-part weekly caregiver training series was implemented in a face-to-face group format. This education to the caregivers included aspects of caregiving and care of self. Educational binders were created for all participants (N=7) that included all the information discussed in the PowerPoint session. Additionally, time was allotted at the end of each session to encourage sharing and support.

Results/Outcomes: The quantitative outcomes of the ZBI showed an average 32% change (decrease) for all 12 domains in stress and the quality of life showed an overall 23 % improved change from pre and post surveys. The qualitative data revealed that caregivers liked the group format and appreciated sharing and the support from other caregivers.

Conclusions: The project outcomes supported the use of OT-led intervention to assist caregivers. The conclusion emphasized the need for a structured educational program for caregivers in addition to the primary interventions to the care recipients to establish a balance and improved quality of life during the occupation of caregiving

Ideas for next steps to build on this topic: My project was limited to the caregivers of patients in the acute care unit only. It would be nice to include other areas such as inpatient rehab and SNF. Also, the idea was to implement this project in other diagnoses and with varied demographic populations of caregivers.

2-3 tips for students undertaking a similar project: Be patient and flexible. Do your homework but be ready for unavoidable circumstances such as the weather (if you are doing a face-to-face format of education). Respect the time of your participants. For clinicians too, include the well-being of the caregiver early on in the recovery process of the patient. Do not wait long to impart this type of education to caregivers.