Objective For many patients with chronic conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the assistance of family carers with medicines is vital for optimal treatment outcomes. The aim of this study was to identify the assistance carers provide to patients with COPD using nebuliser-delivered therapy at home, and the problems experienced that may impact on the safety and effectiveness of therapy and contribute to carer burden.
Methods A cross-sectional, qualitative descriptive study was conducted with participants recruited from primary and intermediate care. Home interviews were conducted with 14 carers who assisted a family member with COPD using a nebuliser. Qualitative procedures enabled analysis of nebuliser-related activities and problems experienced by carers.
Results The carer sample included 10 female and 4 male carers, with a mean age of 61 years: 11 spouses and 3 daughters. They had assisted patients with use of their nebuliser and associated medications for, on average, 4.5 years. Assistance ranged from taking full responsibility for nebuliser use to providing help with particular aspects only when required. Nebuliser-related activities included assembling and setting up equipment, mixing medicines, operating the device, dismantling and cleaning equipment. Difficulties were described with all aspects of care. Carers reported concerns about medication side effects and the lack of information provided.
Conclusions The study revealed the vital role of carers in enabling effective therapy. The wide-ranging responsibilities assumed by carers and problems experienced relate to all aspects of COPD management with nebulisers, and have a potential impact on treatment outcomes and carer burden. A systematic approach to addressing carers’ needs and prioritising support would be anticipated to have positive consequences for patients, carers and health services.
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