Early supported discharge following mild stroke: a qualitative study of patients' and their partners' experiences of rehabilitation at home
Background: Early supported discharge (ESD) allows mild-to-moderate stroke patients to return home as soon as possible and continue rehabilitation at their own pace in familiar surroundings. Thus, the main responsibility for continued rehabilitation is in the hands of patients and their partners, who must collaborate to adjust to poststroke everyday life. However, couples' joint experiences of stroke, early discharge and rehabilitation at home remain minimally investigated. Aim: To investigate how mild stroke patients' and their partners' experience and manage everyday life in a context of ESD. Methods:We conducted qualitative interviews with a purposive sample of 22 ESD patients and 18 partners. Interviews were conducted 3–6 weeks after stroke, and we used thematic analysis to analyse the data. Findings: The analysis identified three themes. First, ‘Home as a healing place’ involved the couples' experiences of a well-informed discharge from hospital. They trusted the health professionals' assessment that the patient was ready to go home. They described home as a comforting and calm place, where recovery could meaningfully take place. The second theme, ‘Flow of everyday life’, comprised the experiences of adapting to and continuing everyday life. Most of the interviewees had relatively minor physical and cognitive impairments, and the patients and their partners were hopeful for a full recovery in the foreseeable future. Finally, ‘Professional safety net’ involved the much appreciated stroke team. Although most of the participants only had one visit from the team, knowing that they were an accessible resource was very important to the couples. Conclusion: ESD was experienced as a meaningful and adequate rehabilitation service that allowed patients and partners to collaboratively reinvent and rebuild their flow of everyday life by jointly adjusting routines, activities and their relationship.