Strengths of family carers: looking after a terminally ill adult under 65 years of age
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Health Sciences
Learning of a potentially terminal illness is devastating at any age. How much more so when in early or mid-adulthood, busy with dreams of family and career goals. This research project investigates the experiences of bereaved family carers who companioned their husband/ wife through their illness and dying. Each spouse was under 65 years of age, a time at which people are eligible to retire from the paid workforce in Aotearoa New Zealand. This is an age group whose voice is virtually invisible in the palliative caregiving literature. Yet, one in every five people die in New Zealand before 65 years of age. For Māori, almost half will die under the age of 65 years. There is a story to be told.
This research sought to explore the strengths that underpinned and sustained family carers through the illness and death of their husband/ wife. It utilises a social construction methodology which fits well with a social work perspective. Through thematic analysis of the narratives, themes emerged of the medical circle of care, the home circle of care, saying goodbye and picking up the threads. Further analysis revealed strengths of love, hope, family, teamwork and resilience. Finally, some suggestions are made to develop palliative care services in order to better meet the needs of family carers.