Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Blaschak, MJ

Second Advisor

Beverly W. Henry

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

School of Interdisciplinary Health Professions


This dissertation explores the value and impact of physical therapists working with caregiver-care recipient dyads. A convergent mixed methods design was used to assess the impact physical therapy can have on burden experienced by the primary caregiver, caring for a loved one with a chronic neurological condition. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of physical therapy on caregiver burden by answering the following research questions: 1) Does caregiver burden as measured by the Zarit Burden Interview change over time when the care recipient receives physical therapy services? 2) Does patient function improve over time in individuals receiving physical therapy services? 3) Is there a relationship between caregiver burden and care recipient function at baseline and discharge from physical therapy services? The research design employed for this study was a convergent mixed methods design exploring perceived burden experienced by the caregiver and the role of physical therapy. Through the method of data analysis using NVivo software, interviews with caregivers generated four main themes: caregivers not feeling prepared to take on their role as caregiver, available assistance needed to reduce burden, aspects of physical therapy caregivers found burdensome, benefits of physical therapy. The significance of this study shows how physical therapists may impact and mediate the stress perceived by caregivers by improving care recipient functional outcomes. It is important to understand both the facilitating factors and barriers faced by caregivers to improve physical therapy practices to assist caregivers. The findings of this study can be used to help evaluate and improve physical therapy practices with monitoring individuals for perceived burden.


128 pages




Northern Illinois University

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