Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Health Sciences


Rehabilitation Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Patrick Kitzman

Second Advisor

Dr. Patrick McKeon


Patient and caregiver education is recognized as a critical component of stroke rehabilitation and physical therapy practice yet the informational needs of stroke survivors and caregivers are largely unmet and optimal educational interventions need to be established. The objective of this dissertation was to develop a theory and model of “Rehabilitation Education for Caregivers and Patients” (RECAP) in the context of physical therapy and stroke rehabilitation, grounded in the experiences and perceptions of stroke survivors, their caregivers, and physical therapists.

Qualitative research methods with a novel grounded theory approach were used. Potential constructs of RECAP were identified from existing research. Next, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 13 stroke survivors and 12 caregivers from rural Appalachian Kentucky, a region with high incidence of stroke and lower levels of educational attainment. Lastly, 13 physical therapists, representing inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient, and home health, were recruited and participated in pre-interview reflection activities and interviews. Data analysis involved predetermined and emerging coding and a constant comparative method was employed. Verification strategies included self-reflective memos, analytic memos, peer debriefing, and triangulation.

The theory generated from this dissertation is: physical therapists continually assess the educational needs of stroke survivors and caregivers, to participate in dynamic educational interactions that involve the provision of comprehensive content, at a point in time, delivered through diverse teaching methods and skilled communication. This phenomenon is influenced by characteristics of the physical therapist and receiver (stroke survivor/caregiver) and occurs within the context of the physical therapist’s professional responsibility, the multidisciplinary team, a complex healthcare system, and the environmental/socio-cultural context. The RECAP theoretical model depicts the relationships between the core and encompassing constructs of the theory.

The RECAP theory and model presents a significant advancement in the study of patient and caregiver education in physical therapy in stroke rehabilitation. This research provides a springboard to inform future research, guide RECAP in stroke physical therapy practice, design optimal educational interventions, develop training tools for entry-level curriculum and practicing clinicians, and to potentially translate to the practice of patient and caregiver education for other rehabilitation professionals and patient populations.