Aim: The aim of this study is to explore patients' and (in)formal caregivers' perspectives on their role(s) and contributing factors in the course of unplanned hospital readmission of older cardiac patients in the Cardiac Care Bridge (CCB) program.
Design: This study is a qualitative multiple case study alongside the CCB randomized trial, based on grounded theory principles.
Methods: Five cases within the intervention group, with an unplanned hospital readmission within six months after randomization, were selected. In each case, semi-structured interviews were held with patients (n = 4), informal caregivers (n = 5), physical therapists (n = 4), and community nurses (n = 5) between April and June 2019. Patients' medical records were collected to reconstruct care processes before the readmission. Thematic analysis and the six-step analysis of Strauss & Corbin have been used.
Results: Three main themes emerged. Patients experienced acute episodes of physical deterioration before unplanned hospital readmission. The involvement of (in)formal caregivers in adequate observation of patients' health status is vital to prevent rehospitalization (theme 1). Patients and (in)formal caregivers' perception of care needs did not always match, which resulted in hampering care support (theme 2). CCB caregivers experienced difficulties in providing care in some cases, resulting in limited care provision in addition to the existing care services (theme 3).
Conclusion: Early detection of deteriorating health status that leads to readmission was often lacking, due to the acuteness of the deterioration. Empowerment of patients and their informal caregivers in the recognition of early signs of deterioration and adequate collaboration between caregivers could support early detection. Patients' care needs and expectations should be prioritized to stimulate participation.
Impact: (In)formal caregivers may be able to prevent unplanned hospital readmission of older cardiac patients by ensuring: (1) early detection of health deterioration, (2) empowerment of patient and informal caregivers, and (3) clear understanding of patients' care needs and expectations.