The impact of patients' chronic disease on family quality of life : an experience from 26 specialties
Golics, Catherine Jane
Basra, Mohammad Khurshid Azam
Salek, M Sam
Finlay, Andrew Yule
BACKGROUND: Previous studies have assessed family quality of life in individual disease areas and specialties. The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of disease on family members of patients over a wide range of specialties and identify key impact areas. This information is essential in order to reveal the extent of this impact and to allow strategies to be developed to support the family members of patients with chronic disease. METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 133 family members of mostly chronically ill patients from 26 medical specialties. Family members were invited to discuss all areas of their lives that had been affected by having an unwell relative. Thematic analysis was carried out using NVivo9® software. RESULTS: Most family members were female (61%), the partner or spouse of the patient (56%), or the parent (22%). Their mean age was 56.1 years (range: 21-85 years) and the mean duration of the patient's disease was 8.9 years (range: 1 month to 60 years). Ten key themes of family quality of life were identified from interviews. The median number of themes reported by family members was six (range: 1-10). The key themes included: emotional impact (mentioned by 92% of subjects), daily activities (91%), family relationships (69%), sleep and health (67%), holidays (62%), involvement in medical care and support given to family members (61%), work and study (52%), financial impact (51%), social life (37%), and time planning (14%). Relationships between the themes were identified. CONCLUSION: This large scale multi-specialty study has demonstrated the significant, yet similar, impact that illness can have on the quality of life of patients' family members. Family quality of life is a previously neglected area of health care which needs to be addressed in order to provide appropriate support for the patient and the family unit.