Spouses' view during their partners' illness and treatment

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Abstract

Nine spouses of people who had suffered from acute leukemia or highly malignant lymphoma were interviewed about their everyday life experiences throughout their partner's illness and treatment, and concerning their view of the professional care provided. The transcribed texts were subjected to phenomenological-hermeneutic analysis. The spouses felt they were in a situation of overall severe crisis (i.e., experiencing feelings of distress, restrictions, and limited or lack of support). The analysis revealed three family types: the couple acting as a unit, the couple acting independently on equal terms, and the couple acting separately with the spouse in a subordinate position. The spouses' evaluation of the entire experience varied according to the family type and the spouses' personal resources, which influenced the availability and utilization of their social network as well as the support of health-care staff. Contentment was related to the couple acting as a unit or the couple acting independently on equal terms and taking control over the situation, actively asking for support and requiring the staff to meet their needs. Discontentment was related to subordination of the spouse to the partner or to health-care staff, and failure of the couple to obtain support between them or from others. Empowering the spouses may mean helping them develop their skills, providing them with opportunities and authority, and assisting them in gaining access to resources based on knowledge of the family type, the consent of the partner, and the spouse's freedom to make choices. This may well lead to increased efficiency and have positive effects for the patient, for the spouse, and for them both as a couple.

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